Bonum Certa Men Certa

GNU/Linux is Bigger Than Ever (Used More Than Ever Before), But Communication Means and Brands Have Changed



Once upon a time people used landlines a lot

Very healthy communication



Summary: The GNU/Linux market is alive and healthy; it's how we measure its health that ought to adapt because things are constantly changing, more rapidly in the realm of technology than anywhere else

"I thought you might find this interesting," one reader told us, sharing some figures about the Debian mailing lists, which don't exactly thrive. The reader was a very avid fan of Debian, saying to us that "Debian was my favourite distro of all time," but now this reader isn't using it anymore.



It's wrong to judge a distro or a community surrounding a distro based on mailing lists, but here's a list of unique debian-user posters (with at least 2 posts) by year:

2011  990 users
2012 1000 users
2013  899 users
2014  832 users
2015  810 users
2016  695 users
2017  702 users
2018  (insufficient data)


The reader noted that "it hasn't updated since the middle of 2018 (so the 2018 data isn't accurate)" and it's also worth remembering that Ubuntu came around, basing everything on Debian. Other distros too may have 'diluted' somewhat from the Debian activity, albeit not the Debian codebase, repositories etc.

Moreover, it might be possible to explain this by saying that people use other means of communication these days (social control media has become more popular over the past decade).

"Some people wrongly measure the size and importance of GNU, Linux and various other Free software projects based on the number of people lurking in IRC channels or chatting in mailing lists."A lot of people may easily mistake this for lack of popularity, lost momentum and maybe even blame systemd or some other old canard. Judging by what I see in my everyday life (and work), at the back end Debian is absolutely huge. A lot of the repositories used may be Canonical's (for Ubuntu), but much of the heavy lifting is based upon or derived from Debian.

Some people wrongly measure the size and importance of GNU, Linux and various other Free software projects based on the number of people lurking in IRC channels or chatting in mailing lists. That totally fails to account for various dynamics, such as GNU/Linux becoming so mainstream that people no longer go 'online' for support, the names keep changing (e.g. Android, AWS) and many Web pages are behind walled gardens (e.g. online support). Fewer things tend to break. How many people even use newsgroups/USENET anymore? How many use phones and chat 'apps'? How many pay for some company (such as ours) to support and maintain their servers? None of that ends up being 'spilled' online (or some mailing lists). A lot of activity, communications included, lands in pull requests of public and private repositories. As for the media? It's dying. It's dying a fast death and it has nothing to do with GNU/Linux (that's true across the entire spectrum, also outside technology).

Here's more of the above. It's "something I did a year or two ago," our reader said, limiting the search to the debian-user mailing list:



year | users w/ >1 posts | top post count / top poster



1994 --- 22 6 Ian A Murdock (founder)

1995 --- 40 26 Bruce Perens (dpl) 1996 --- 225 76 Bruce Perens 1997 --- 592 93 Bruce Perens

1998 --- 942 104 Kent West

1999 --- 782 56 Pollywog

2000 --- 1099 199 kmself new york times article: https://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/19/business/yourmoney/barbarians-at-the-digital-gate.html

2001 --- 2273 524 Karsten M. Self (kmself) 2002 --- 2839 1443 Colin Watson (dev since 2001) https://raphaelhertzog.com/2010/11/25/people-behind-debian-colin-watson/

2003 --- 2929 2061 Paul Johnson 2004 --- 3009 1310 Paul Johnson ("proud debian admin and user" -- from sig)

2005 --- 2409 568 Roberto C. Sanchez (dev, apt expertise)

2006 --- 1876 679 Andrew Sackville-West (debian dev? sw engineer)

2007 --- 1418 1115 Ron Johnson 2008 --- 1222 1168 Ron Johnson

2009 --- 921 417 Boyd Stephen Smith Jr. https://symcbean.blogspot.com/2014/03/warning-bbwc-may-be-bad-for-your-health.html

2010 --- 536 582 Camaleón 2011 --- 990 2081 Camaleón 2012 --- 1000 2500 Camaleón

2013 --- 899 1297 Ralf Mardorf (ubuntu wiki editor)

2014 --- 832 936 Brian

2015 --- 810 1018 Lisi Reisz (computer consultant) 2016 --- 695 827 Lisi Reisz

2017 --- 702 530 tomas

2018 --- 264 237 David Wright




Even if the above mailing list became completely unused, that would still not say very much, except perhaps something about mailing lists in general. Yahoo is currently shutting down a huge, decades-long archive. That's just what happens over time. GNU/Linux is slowly but surely adapting. Long live Debian and distros based on Debian.

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