Internal competition and collaboration in Ubuntu

Mark Shuttleworth recently wrote about internal competition in Ubuntu in his blog. Mark says:

In Ubuntu, we have a lot of internal competition. Ubuntu and Kubuntu and Xubuntu and *buntu-at-large have to collaborate and also, to certain extent, compete. We handle that very well, I think, …

I don’t completely agree.

What’s wrong with the statement?

There is not much competition between the flavors. Different flavors have different target audiences*, and there is next to no overlap between the groups.

Sadly there also isn’t much collaboration between the flavors. We lack communication too often. As this many times mean unexpected work with broken features, it also heavily affects the Xubuntu development, since the Xubuntu team essentially only has one technical contributor.

* What’s the target audience for Xubuntu?

In the future, Xubuntu will have an even more clear target audience providing the only “conservative” desktop environment as Kubuntu has Plasma via KDE 4.x and Ubuntu will have the new GNOME Shell via GNOME 3.x.

I also would like to note that while Xubuntu has been said to be the lightweight alternative for older computers, it isn’t really how the Xubuntu community, or at least most of it, has been thinking about it. Many comparisons do already show that Xubuntu is coming nearer to Ubuntu in terms of memory usage, though these comparisons haven’t had much to do with real-life usage patterns and/or didn’t really test the base systems but a set of applications.

If you strive for the lightest of the Ubuntu systems, you should look into Lubuntu, which uses LXDE as its desktop environment.

This article is part of the article series .


  1. ochosi
    March 13, 2011

    the whole issue of collaboration and communication between the flavors might be less of a problem between ubuntu and kubuntu – one reason being that they’re not sharing toolkits, another being the different amount of manpower kubuntu and xubuntu have – but specifically one of ubuntu and xubuntu (and i assume also lubuntu).

    changes that are certainly well-meant happen sometimes pretty late in the cycle without much chance for anyone “outside” (as in: outside the ubuntu-dev community or canonical) to foresee, one example being the resize-grips (even though they are an appreciated feature). another example were the new scrollbars, even though in all fairness they were at least only whitelisted for certain apps. another thing would be the redesign of the soundmenu-spec a short while ago, like the scrollbars after the feature-freeze.

    i guess that all these features that are introduced into ubuntu are being thought through but there is practically no communication between ubuntu/canonical towards the other flavors (at least that’s what i know from my experience contributing to xubuntu). to the worst we have to find out that some new feature breaks something in xfce after we do a dist-upgrade in our test-system, i’m not sure i’d call this a “healthy ecosystem” or a “well-handled cooperation”, at least not if xubuntu and other *buntus are meant with it.

    as you stated correctly this lack of cooperation and communication is especially hard on the smaller distros like xubuntu and lubuntu because they sometimes have to use the little manpower they have just to keep the system running.

  2. Vincent
    March 13, 2011

    I think that Xubuntu being the most full-featured “conservative” desktop might very well change the target audience of Xubuntu, and might win over a lot of people that perhaps the Xubuntu team will want to take into account more. On the other hand, being a usable desktop is already a high priority, so in that regard the newcomers might already be target audience.

  3. Pasi Lallinaho
    March 13, 2011

    Vincent, you are right, though we already are in the midst of the change.

    I’ve seen more and more users switching directly from Windows, while a few years ago many users wanting to try Xubuntu came from Ubuntu or Kubuntu and wanted something lighter.