We refer to Linux as an operating system, but in reality it is not, and if you want an operating system, not just one. A "distribution" of the hundreds in circulation connects him core of Linux with some additional software required by any full operating system. To develop these distributions, sometimes referred to as Linux operating systems, we need money and workforce.
Some distributions have a company behind them for growth and promotion. Ubuntu let's say, which is one of the most popular Linux operating systems, is in this category. And it's not the only one.
Some other distributions do not have a corporate sponsor and rely on other means to stay on stage. Such a distribution is Debian. Ubuntu is based on Debian, which means that most of the Ubuntu code comes from Debian Project. Debian is backed by a huge community, which is closer to the Linux philosophy.The presence of a corporate sponsor changes the structure of a Linux community. It can affect your user experience, even if you are not an active member of the community.
So, according to the above, is it good to use a distribution that has a company behind it, or is it better to follow those who do not?
Below are six questions that we will try to answer.
1. Are programmers paid?
Few Linux distributions pay employees, and Ubuntu is one of them. Canonical formed in 2004 is designed to develop and distribute Ubuntu. It earns money by selling support and additional services.
Canonical serves as an alternative open source solution and as a company that designs an operating system for the masses. The company employs people who design and develop Ubuntu, and maintain server repositories. We should mention that Ubuntu is a community, but many of the contributors come from Canonical.
Red Hat and SUSE Linux adopt a different approach. Each sponsor of a community-supported distribution also provides a separate Enterprise option. You and I can run Fedora on CentOS or openSUSE on our computers, companies with hundreds of computers will probably choose Red Hat Enterprise Linux or SUSE Linux Enterprise.
Red Hat and SUSE Linux deploy business operating systems using community-supported distribution code. Each one of them employs people who support corporate client systems.
Finally, there are very few pay-as-you-go distributions for desktop developers. Let's mention Ubuntu or Pop! _OS.
Although open source software may be available for free, it does not mean it does not cost. There are many hidden costs to move the entire system. One of these is the price of maintaining the servers that store and distribute the software we download to our computers in the form of updates, or ISO for new installations.
Canonical hosts Ubuntu software, Red Hat does it for Fedora, and so can be said about SUSE and openSUSE. These companies also host the websites from these distributions.
Without the help of companies or some other sponsor, it is quite difficult to find all the money they need to cover the costs.
Who will pay for hospitality? How can contributors save time from work without a fee? Why do developers want to support distribution? Who wants a slow server distribution? Sometimes donations are sufficient and sometimes not.
The large distributions supported by a company (Red Hat - Fedora) usually have reliable infrastructure. But also large distributions that only communities like Debian and Arch Linux have, do not have the problem thanks to the huge number of people who contribute to the community.
3. I can buy Pre-Installed PC Sharing
Companies interact with other companies. There is a common language and common concerns. When a hardware manufacturer creates a relationship with another company that will provide the software, it knows what it chooses. She knows where to direct her clients, and knows who she works with.
This is one of the reasons why Dell and System76 provide computers running Ubuntu (although the latter has changed to Pop! _OS, a Ubuntu-based distribution). Surely Ubuntu remains the most popular desktop operating system for Linux, but it is also clear that Dell is working with Canonical.
For corporate customers, Dell has servers running Linux business choices from Red Hat, SUSE, and Oracle. Of course, all are well-established companies.
There are other hardware vendors that let you choose your own distribution, so you can buy other pre-installed distributions on a computer.
4. Is this Linux distribution competitive in the market?
Are you someone who started using Ubuntu in recent years and like the Unity desktop? In this case, you probably do not like the news that Canonical wants to decide that investing in Unity is not economically viable.
Yes, as we have already mentioned, the next big version of Ubuntu will come with preinstalled Gnome DE. From this perspective, they are right. That's what business is all about.
The experience offered by Ubuntu has been heavily influenced over the last decade. The previous Unity desktop has started as a slightly modified version of GNOME, but has undergone extensive changes along the way. Eventually it turned into a separate DE with the name Unity. It then went back to a slightly modified version of GNOME. These changes were largely due to the fact that Canonical wanted to enter the consumer market and had to offer a unique experience that it could also support.
But if you do not think about money, this is less complicated. You can continue to deploy a user interface (DE by Desktop environment) out of love and only for the project. You may not be able to spend as much time as you need to develop the code, no matter if there are just a few hundred people using that desktop.
5. Does this distribution remain true to its values?
Free and open source software is not just about creating code but the ideals and values of the development team and the community. The free software movement states that every computer comes with rights and the people who provide the software should adhere to a particular moral standard. A profit incentive does not contradict the ideals of free software, but at the same time, they risk too much when money comes in the middle.
If you are a company that aims to make a profit and have to choose between a good ethical decision and one that is best for its finances, guess where to go. Especially if there are shareholders who have to be satisfied, the pressure for a decision that will bring higher profits is even stronger.
This is not the biggest issue in the Linux world but it has caused tensions between Canonical and some Ubuntu users in the past. From 12.10, Ubuntu brought Amazon ads pre-installed on the operating system.
Canonical is a private company that wants to become public. This forces Canonical to leave parts of the company that are not profitable.
6. Are distributions affected by geography?
Have you ever wondered why Fedora does not provide proprietary codecs? One of the reasons is due to the commitment of the open source community to promote other alternative open source and free applications. Another reason is that this could lead Red Hat to legal adventures. Red Hat is an American company subject to US law. Ubuntu and openSUSE do not have pre-installed encoders, although both distributions make it easier to download later. These distributions are linked to companies based in Europe.
Many distributions that do not have a sponsoring company do not have an official headquarters. You can think of these distributions as global entities. Developers and contributors to these distributions come from everywhere and so it is difficult to determine which country or region can be considered as "headquarters". Of course, this has as a "side effect" more protection than the legal framework. Which country has jurisdiction? And because there is no profit, why should anyone really care?
Different kinds of corporate support?
Linux distributions are different and are changing. The same goes for the communities that support them. Sometimes the companies that support them hold most of the rights and other times they are happy if they find a position on the board.
Then there are projects such as Elementary OS, where there is a company that runs the project, (also called Elementary), but consists of only a few people.
Do you trust a distribution that has corporate funding?
Is there mistrust in thinking that there is some profit motive? Which distribution do you run? Could we see in the future what sophisticated Linux distributions through corporations? Is it possible to see sophisticated distributions from crowded communities?