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Ubuntu man responds to GNOME 'coattail' claims

Shuttleworth defines Canonical's mission

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Ubuntu creator Mark Shuttleworth has defended Canonical's lack of participation in GNOME against accusations of riding on the coattails of the project's number-one maintainer, Red Hat.

After giving it some thought, Shuttleworth concluded that open-source is bigger than any single project and that Canonical's mission is adding new tools and components to the ecosystem at large, rather than focusing on aspects that already work.

"I see that as an invigorating contribution to the broader open source ecosystem, and I hear from many people that they perceive it the same way," Shuttleworth wrote of Canonical's approach.

"Those who say 'but Canonical doesn't do X' may be right, but that misses all the things we do, which weren't on the map beforehand."

Shuttleworth gave his thoughts in response to criticism of Canonical following Neary Consulting's GNOME Census in July that showed Canonical ranks sixteenth in a list of GNOME committers with 1.03 per cent of commits. GNOME is Ubuntu's default desktop.

Red Hat is the single biggest corporate contributor with 16.30 per cent, according to Neary, with Novell second on 10.44 per cent.

The census incensed fans of Red Hat and Canonical.

Former Red Hat senior architect and Fedora Project chair Greg DeKoenigsberg responded to the findings by accusing Ubuntu of riding on Red Hat's coattails form the kernel to the interface. Others defended Canonical pointing to its smaller size and the fact the company's pretty much bankrolled by Shuttleworth.

Finally speaking out, Shuttleworth said he'd been thinking about the nature of Canonical and Ubuntu's contributions. It comes down to helping refine Linux to make it easier for end-users and giving them an alternative to Windows, while also creating commercial opportunities for partners.

The goal for both Canonical and Ubuntu was not simply to write more code, to achieve this. Most of the desktop pieces were in place. They just weren't delivered in a way that would take it beyond the server, or to the general public.

The decision to focus on what's new with Ubuntu and not necessarily throw more into GNOME comes down to timing: the fact GNOME along with may other Linux staples such as KDE, the kernel, X, libc and gcc were already fully formed when Ubuntu arrived.

Where they had bugs and shortcomings, the projects already had roadmaps in place to address them, Shuttleworth wrote.

"There was something missing: sometimes it got articulated as 'marketing', sometimes as 'end-user focus', I remember thinking 'that's what I could bring," he continued.

"So Ubuntu, and Canonical, have quite explicitly NOT put effort into things which are obviously working quite well, instead, we've tried to focus on new ideas and new tools and new components.

This is the second time in a year Shuttleworth's moved to sooth a community dispute involving Canonical and Ubuntu. In August last year, Shuttleworth promised more Canonical developers on Debian after members of the Debian community objected to a proposed freeze of the project to help synchronize code and features with new versions of Ubuntu. ®

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