Is this the End of the road for elementary OS?

3 min

Cassidy James, the founder of elementary OS, has resigned from his role as per his recent note. Here’s our take on this topic with possible future.

elementary OS 6 ODIN Desktop
elementary OS 6 ODIN Desktop

When elementary OS was first released a decade back, it was a radical step in the Linux Desktop space. Cassidy had a vision that the developers and contributors since, and it’s been adopted by users worldwide. Its Pantheon Desktop is one of the best desktops designed from the ground up with aesthetics and productivity in mind.

Over the years, elementary has grown. The user base and popularity have increased because it was stable, based on Ubuntu LTS and a perfect desktop for those who want a macOS like a user interface in Linux. The Flatpak based App Store is one of the best app stores in the Linux ecosystem with curated applications.

But all these good works and user feedback are not profitable if you run a company with free software unless you have a corporate backup and other revenue models.

Why this situation and is this the end of the elementary OS?

The elementary has a “pay for a download” revenue model, which is optional. But with the pandemic situation for two years, the revenue from the sales dropped, and the leadership had cut short the salaries of the full-time employees and medical benefits to sustain the company.

“Each release since I joined elementary full time performed even better sales-wise than the last, until OS 6 and 6.1 which performed far worse than expected, likely in part due to the ongoing global pandemic—people were seemingly less likely to pay an optional amount to download an operating system when they could just get it for free. It became clear we needed to re-prioritize our company finances while staying firm in our open-source, privacy-centric, and ethical funding beliefs,” said Cassidy in his farewell note.

The pandemic hit everyone and everything financially across the world. The elementary OS 6 Odin release did not go well. There were some bugs, issues with Nvidia cards and other problems – the Covid pandemic and lack of contribution impacted the quality of the software. This eventually impacted the optional paid download revenue.

The optional paid download model, the GitHub sponsorship, is insufficient to sustain a business or a large scale project. If you look at other open-source mainstream projects – such as Fedora Linux, GNOME, KDE Plasma – they all have substantial corporate donations from big enterprises such as Red Hat, IBM, Google, etc. And there is a reason for it. All these big corporations have commercial benefits from these open source projects down the line. But things were a little different for elementary OS.

Cassidy also writes, “As a result, Dani has asked me to resign and completely step away from elementary. When seeking out another position, this was not my intention, but Dani has been adamant. In the end, I have decided that the best course of action is indeed for me to move on; I’m giving up on my decade-plus passion for elementary and have accepted an offer for Dani to be the sole, 100% owner of elementary, Inc. I’ve signed my resignation. As of today, she now owns the entirety of the company shares and responsibility. I wish her the best in continuing its legacy.”

Looking Ahead

Honestly, I can feel Cassidy’s emotion in his farewell note. It isn’t easy to give up a project or passion you have built over the years. There are countless hours you invest in a vision for the greater good of the community. Your emotions are attached to it. And it isn’t easy to give up.

No one can predict the future. So, we don’t know what will happen to the elementary OS as a project in the coming days. When this situation occurs, an open-source company eventually becomes a community project with a much wider audience and contributions. I feel the new leaders need to look at the future road map of elementary in Linux Distribution or Desktop space.

Because GNOME 42+ with GTK4/libadwaita looks promising, the elementary OS may lose its user base to GNOME. In this scenario, the only selling point is the Pantheon Desktop, which needs to be more polished and marketable while the new leadership looks for better revenue models.

We hope, as a community, the elementary OS continues to push releases, if required, to make it a community project without the GitHub sponsorship wall. And I think looking for funding or donations from enterprises also can be one of the long term options to sustain.

No open-source project should be discontinued. I hope the new leadership should look for a better revenue model to sustain the project. Nothing is impossible if you keep a positive mind.

So, what are your opinions about this entire situation? Let me know in the comment box down below.


Via Cassidy’s blog


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