Saturday, September 10, 2011

Desktop common ground

There's a common argument that you hear about open source desktops which goes something like "we have less than 1% market share; the other desktops are laughing at us; we should pool together and make a real contender".

And you know what, they're right!  We don't have a significant market share, and we're not at the point where we have a truly amazing desktop experience (but we're getting closer).  Anything we can do to get there faster must be a good thing.

And you know what, they're wrong.  We don't have a finite developer resource.  Open-source is amazing like that - when a project starts that people care about suddenly the community grows.  Trying to mash everyone together into one project wouldn't work and would probably make us even slower.  Putting all our eggs in one basket is a big risk.

How can we share resources to grow that market share without pushing us together into a big compromise?  We need to share infrastructure.  What we need is a POSIX for the 21st century.  We've been slowly building this with things like the Linux, D-Bus, X, GStreamer.  We can do more.

There's been a rise in design thinking in Open-Source which has been really good for everyone.  But I think the pendulum has swung too far.  User experience is not the only factor in deciding what to do.  Infrastructure is expensive.  Every bad API is slowing us down progress on the layers above it.  Every desktop developer that dives into infrastructure is not working on those layers either.

Sharing is hard.  But the cost of not sharing is huge.  Lets make sure the infrastructure we're building for tomorrow works cross-desktop and we can share those costs.
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