In less than a decade, Ubuntu has become the most well-known desktop Linux variant. With its heavy focus on user interface and usability, it’s easy to see why Ubuntu has become a popular introduction to the world of Linux. Recently, the developers have switched away from traditional interfaces to a more streamlined UI called Unity. The new look alongside integration with Amazon search from the desktop have raised the ire of a number of Linux diehards. Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu, has recently made a blog post explaining the plans for Ubuntu in 2013. Anyone expecting a change of heart about Canonical’s recent UI and UX decisions is in for some disappointment.
Shuttleworth addresses his detractors by saying, “If you’ve been arguing over software licenses for the best part of 15 years then you would probably be fine with whatever came before Ubuntu.” Essentially, he dismisses the hardcore Linux enthusiast by implying Ubuntu isn’t designed for them. Instead, he is focused on Ubuntu becoming approachable and usable by the largest number of people. While the goal of making a free and open-source operating system for the whole world is incredibly admirable, it shouldn’t come at the expense of the community that has made Ubuntu into the juggernaut it currently is.
The South African millionaire continues to explain that in the coming months, Ubuntu development will be focused heavily on moving into the tablet and smartphone space while simultaneously focusing on cloud computing. While this is undoubtedly the best way forward, it will obviously rub some Linux enthusiasts the wrong way. A vocal minority of Linux users and developers are stuck in a 1990s mindset where the desktop is king, and everything should be focused on power users. With that sort of thinking, Linux has never become a substantial player in the desktop space — but taking its powerful underpinnings and making it approachable has made Android one of the most widely used consumer operating systems in the world. The idealism underpinning Ubuntu hasn’t always been implemented perfectly, but Canonical is making huge strides in usability. Hands down, Ubuntu is the most interesting and progressive consumer oriented Linux distribution available today.
It would be ridiculous to think Ubuntu would stop iterating on the idea of a user-friendly Linux distro just to please some uppity neckbeards. However, it would be nice if the Canonical leadership weren’t so openly hostile towards their detractors. Instead of eye rolling and explaining that Ubuntu isn’t made with them in mind, Canonical should embrace the vocal minority. Throw them a bone by highlighting how easy it is to switch to vanilla Gnome, KDE, or Xfce, and embrace how diverse the Linux community can be. In turn, the old school Linux fans shouldn’t expect Ubuntu to stagnate simply for their comfort. The times they are a-changin’, folks.