Debian @15 is it still relevant?

From the “it’s about releases isn’t it?” files:

Debian GNU/Linux is now 15 years old — which isn’t too shabby for an operating system. Yet though Debian is still alive and kicking, I’m not so sure it holds the market position that it should at this point in its maturity.

Sure there are many Linux distributions based on Debian – Ubuntu, Xandros and others among them. There have also been efforts over the past 15 years to create an Enterprise Debian support system/vendor of some sort. Ian Murdoch (the ‘IAN’ part of Debian) had tried with his firm Progeny which ultimately failed. Then there was the Debian Common Core Alliance (DCCA) which also failed. Bruce Perens (a former Debian Project Leader himself) also tried with UserLinux which never ended up materializing either.

HP is a major backer of Debian and seems to be profiting from the experience as well. Outside of HP’s success,  and Ubuntu’s success being based off Debian – Debian has not hit the same level of commercial success as a Red Hat or Novell.

There are a lot of reasons why Debian has faltered a bit over the years – the most obvious issue is the lack of a consistent and reliable release schedule which is what helped to give birth to Ubuntu in the first place.

That said, Debian is a massive repository for many architectures and subsystems. As such it is an unmatched resource for downstream distributions like Ubuntu and Xandros to build from.

Debian is also the model for true community leadership and participation. The Debian Project Leader is an elected position and its Social Contract is the model for Open Source itself.

So is Debian relevant? OF COURSE IT IS.

But I’ll still argue that it could have been more. At this point Ubuntu has eclipsed Debian proper in terms of popular mindshare. Ian Murdoch once told me that he thought that Ubuntu’s popularity was more harmful than helpful to Debian itself. Yet Debian development and releases still persist and Debian itself still had users/supporters and contributers.

So Happy Birthday Debian. You’ve been a mainstay of Linux since the beginning and I sincerely hope that will remain that way for at least the next 15 years.

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