The Fedora Project is celebrating its fifth birthday today. Congrats, Fedora! It seems like just yesterday I was covering the first release to see how (or if) Fedora would distinguish itself from Red Hat Linux.
It's been really interesting to see how the project has grown over the years, and to watch the project develop its own unique community and mature into a healthy project that has a life distinct from its corporate parent. It took a while for Fedora to really hit its stride, but I think the project has taken on a life of its own and the quality of Fedora releases has put the lie to the view of Fedora as a "beta for Red Hat."
It's probably not considered smart PR or marketing to say nice things about a "competitor," but we do things differently in the open source community. Also, I really don't see Fedora exactly as a competitor to the openSUSE Project, in that we have the same goals -- to spread Linux and FOSS. We also collaborate with the same upstream projects, and Linux has plenty of room to grow before we need to be jostling for one another's users. There is competitive pressure in trying to one-up the other guy's distro, but that's healthy and benefits our users more than anything.
Yes, our corporate parents do compete, but that doesn't often trickle down to the community level. I'm often in touch with Fedora's project leader, Paul Frields, (as well as folks from Ubuntu and other distros) and we've found several areas where we'd like our respective projects to collaborate.
I've learned quite a bit watching Fedora and the things that it has done successfully. The governance model it has now seems to work well for the project. Moving to an externally available build system (as we've done with the openSUSE Build Service), and allowing contributors outside of Red Hat to maintain more packages.
The most valuable thing I've learned watching Fedora is this: Patience. It takes time and steady, incremental growth to build a solid community. If you'd asked me two years into Fedora's development whether the project would succeed, I'd have been somewhat skeptical, but looking at the project five years down the road, I'm convinced.