Why don't more people use desktop Linux? I have a theory you might not like

There might be a very simple explanation for why the masses have yet to adopt Linux as their desktop operating system and it's one the open-source community won't like.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
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I've been using Linux since 1997 and it's only failed me on one rare occasion. Considering the length of time, that's an impressive run. Imagine you've managed to work with an operating system for nearly 30 years and have had minor problems a handful of times and only one serious issue.

That's a win, no matter how you look at it.

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But, during those early years, it wasn't exactly easy. That's probably why I became so familiar with the OS very early on… I had to work at it.

Today's Linux is not yesterday's Linux. Now, the platform is incredibly easy to use. There's no more need to use the command line. There's no more need to compile your own kernel. There's no more need to write bash scripts, work with regular expressions, and install your own firmware.

It's just so simple now.

Given that, why aren't more people using Linux on the desktop?

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To give you an idea of the numbers, it was recently reported (just about everywhere) that Linux surpassed MacOS as the second most-used operating system for gaming. Couple that with Linux hitting the 3% threshold in desktop market share and, well, the numbers might be something to celebrate but there's really not that much to huzzah over. 

Even so…huzzah!

Here's the thing. Over the last few years, I developed a theory as to why Linux has yet to really take over the desktop. By all accounts, it should have. It's free, it's remarkably stable, secure, and easy to use, and it's fun. On top of that, the majority of desktop use cases these days are centered on the web browser. That alone kind of kicks to the curb the idea that a lack of applications is the issue stopping so many from using Linux.

So, what's the problem?

Open-source community, cover your ears (or your eyes).

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The problem is the lack of a representative version of Linux.

Hear me out.

When someone comes to me asking how to get into Linux, they do not need to hear a laundry list of distributions to choose from. When they ask, I don't want to have to say, something akin to, "You could try Ubuntu, Linux Mint, elementary OS, Zorin OS, or Ubuntu Budgie." Although that's true, it can be overwhelming for someone who's never even seen the operating system in action.

But the reality is, every single Linux user has an opinion on what distribution is best-suited for new users. Sadly, that variety of opinions doesn't help the cause. Roughly seven years ago, that very issue led me to an idea, one I believe would vastly benefit Linux.

Consider this: An "official" Linux distribution.

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Think about it. If there's one distribution that becomes the official flavor, a few things could possibly happen.

First, there'd be less confusion for new users. If someone wants to try Linux, they turn to Official Linux (or whatever the name would be). That version of Linux would be user-friendly, stable, receive TLS-level updates, and would be geared toward (you guessed it) new users.

Second, companies that want to port their software or make their hardware available to Linux wouldn't be faced with making it work for hundreds of distributions (or even just a handful). They'd only have to work with a single flavor of Linux. That could equate to even more software and hardware being made available to Linux. 

Another added benefit would be that more businesses would be willing to use Linux as a desktop operating system.

The big caveat

Here's the issue: Which distribution should it be? Ubuntu? Linux Mint? elementary OS? Zorin OS? Fedora?

That's where things get tricky. If you ask a Ubuntu user, of course, they'll say the official Linux distribution should be Ubuntu. The same holds true for every distribution and every user. 

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To get around this, I would suggest basing the official Linux distribution on Debian but with a few queues from other distros, such as:

  • Standard users added to the sudo group.
  • Both Snap and Flatpack support are built in.
  • User choice of web browser (even with a tool allowing them to easily switch).
  • New release software available.

With those bits in place, the distribution would be maintained and controlled by a collective of people from users, developers, and corporations (such as Intel and AMD) with a vested interest in the success of this project. There wouldn't be a single person or company running the show, to maintain a level of autonomy, so everything would be handled via committee. There would also be corporate backing for things like marketing (such as TV commercials).

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This could work and I strongly believe it's something that should be considered. I also know people fear change and the open-source community hasn't exactly met this idea with open arms. The biggest argument against this has been the fear that it would eliminate choice and the people at large would fail to see there's a world of choice with Linux.

But the thing is, this official distribution would be used to promote Linux and expand its reach. This wouldn't be about squashing innovation or removing choice. Instead, it would be about reaching a much larger audience with an ease Linux hasn't enjoyed since its inception. In fact, Linux outreach has been pretty bad since, well, the beginning. 

It doesn't have to be that way.

With an official distribution, everyone would know where to point new users and companies would have a much easier time supporting Linux.

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I realize it's a very complicated idea but if it's well-implemented, it could work and work well.

What do you think, Linux community? Is this the way to go to help the open-source operating system finally reach a double-digit market share? 

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