Why What FOSS Needs is a Unified Message

by Sam Dean - Mar. 17, 2011Comments (2)

Does the FOSS movement suffer from not having a strong person who functions as its leader? Noting the impact that figureheads such as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have had, that's the question that TechNewsWorld tackles in a post based on a poll on TuxRadar. Of course, the FOSS movement has had notable leaders over the years, ranging from Linus Torvalds to Richard Stallman, but there is no single charismatic leader who regularly keeps open source and open standards topics alive in public conversations. While one person with enough charisma might make a big difference, though, what FOSS really needs is more unified messaging, and on the commercial open source front, more unified marketing.

 One person dubbed hairyfeet commenting on the TuxRadar poll writes:

"Why does Apple 'just work' for so many? Why is Windows on 90%+ of the world's computers? Because both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates had a VISION, a way they wanted things to be, and they made sure things went that direction."

Actually, those who have followed Steve Jobs over the years note that he is more a master of marketing than anything else. Beginning with its iconic 1984-themed television ad decades ago (shown above), Apple has always benefited from strong marketing. As for Bill Gates, he realized very early in the rise of personal computers that winning developers to the Windows platform was critical to Microsoft's success. In both cases, these leaders leveraged business ideas more than just charisma.

Increasingly, FOSS projects that experience true success head into commercial channels. This has been true for projects ranging from Hadoop to Drupal to Linux. But FOSS projects rarely benefit from the kind of unified marketing and messaging that go on at proprietary technology companies.

As Joe Brockmeier noted here on OStatic in a post on what Linux needs:

"If you took the marketing budgets of all the Linux vendors combined, and then doubled that figure, and then added a zero, you might start approaching what Microsoft spends on marketing Windows. Maybe. The ad councils for various industries have the right idea -- it's a good idea to pool your money to grow the market when you're jointly competing with another industry. It'd be much better for Linux awareness if, in addition to advertising for specific distros and products, we had a general ad campaign to get the word out about Linux and its advantages."

That's true, but such an effort would require unified, coordinated efforts that are rarely seen on the FOSS front, where fragmented efforts tend to rule the day. With such unifed, coordinated messaging efforts, FOSS could become a much bigger force than it is today.


Shailesh Patel uses OStatic to support Open Source, ask and answer questions and stay informed. What about you?


I have said, probably in your comment system here before. OS communities need to work together, standardize and create a unified message and goal if they are going to replace MS both at home and in the business world.

There are two many flavors of Linux for starters, there needs to be one. One distro, one package manager, one office app etc etc so developers can focus on making those applications REALLY rival their paid counter parts such as Office, Photoshop and the like.

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Oh not this again!!

FOSS isnt a community, its different communites that often have NOTHING in common with each other besides a methodology and choice of licenses.

I work on a project that is free software, it is GPLed and the dozen or so people are very committed to it as are our companies. The thing is this project only is needed by about 20 or so company in the world in our field and maximizes efficiency onsome very, very specific hardware.

We have NOTHING to do with Linux kernel people, with desktop groups like KDE or a project like Digikam or VLC.

Oh yeah, its a Windows only software.

We are fully FLOSS, respect all the rules of sharing that is inherent to the GPL but were have NOTHING to do with other communities.

Having someone talk for us because we happen to use the GPL is simply idiotic.

Not every case is as far removed as we are but the point remains the same:

not every free software projects need to involve themselves with others. Some do. Very much so. Some less. Some not at all.

Maybe GNU-Linux needs a unified voice (and its not going to happen) but FOSS/FLOSS doenst.

You are confusing both.

Its ok when commenters like Jon are clueless about how things work but when writers start swapping terminology, then why even bother?

You know how many distros there are?

Just the right amount.

If there is too many, they will wither and die and the strong shall remain to pick at the carcass in case there was something there of value.

My old college rolls its own, as does MIT.

Its not meant for you and joe blow, so whether you use it or not or if it doesnt get any traction outside the school is NOT important. THat is NOT its intended use.

One size fits all is never the right answer in technology but its great for electronic toys.

Fearing freedom is not uncommon.

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