Future of Ubuntu Community

Hi, as an ethusiastic Ubuntu user since 2007, I am rather surprised by this post; you are painting quite a grim picture of the state of the Ubuntu community.

I’d like to know from other community members and/or former Canonical employees if this is an accurate picture, since it worries me. I don’t mean to say that I don’t believe you, but I would like to know to which extent what you are saying is personal experience/opinion or a genuine, generalized problem.

I have followed Ubuntu through all its successes and sad failures (Ubuntu TV, Ubuntu One, the falling out between GNOME and Canonical, etc.) To me, Ubuntu’s successes have always, and still far outweigh their failures, and, as they say, high trees catch a lot of wind. I know that Canonical’s choice to drop all desktop, smartphone endearvous was a bitter pill for everyone (least of all the people at Canonical who had worked hard on it, but also the community), but I think that the reversion to GNOME has happened in quite a painless and elegant way, with the community taking back more control. (I remember Didier Roche’s blog in preparing Ambiance and the Ubuntu experience on GNOME.) The result is this Discourse forum, a new theme, a vibrant presence on social media, a renewed cooperation with the GNOME community, with hardware vendors (Lenovo to name one!), even with Microsoft and Google …

Every new chapter in Ubuntu’s history seems to have been (and still is) welcomed with a lot of complaining (I remember vividly the merciless criticism on Unity), criticism that very often heralds ‘the end of Ubuntu’.

To me, Ubuntu has reverted back to what it was before the start of Unity. It might not have been what people were expecting, it might have been a painful decision, but Ubuntu is still here, and it still has a unique position in the Linux world.

So, my question is: to which extent ‘is the community dying’, as you say? (I see a LOT of activity on Reddit, here on Discourse, in education (where I work).)

Let me also take the opportunity to speak out for GNOME. There is a lot of criticism on GNOME and the GNOME community, but from where I am sitting, it is the most popular Linux desktop and it is thriving. They have a lot of new sponsors, their own new Discourse page, … What Ubuntu needs is a continuing involvement with GNOME. I for one - and I know I’m not alone, love vanilla GNOME, but also love the tweaks that the Ubuntu Community has made to it to make it a genuine Ubuntu experience. It is not a Unity-grade endeavour, but it comes close to what happened back when Ubuntu used GNOME 2. Using GNOME, branding and tweaking the experience, and opening the doors to 3rd party software apps. It is what Ubuntu does best. I hope for a prosperous future!


You can look around in discourse or look at Ubuntu Newsletters there has been a decline for many years now. Ubuntu Membership has been steadily declining for years and so has Ubuntu Developers. There hasn’t been fully functioning Ubuntu Community Team in years now and the Community Council which is the main governance body has been abandoned and vacant without any official communication from Mark who is the project leader.

Here you can see a thread of long time Ubuntu contributors sharing the same concerns:

This isn’t exactly news to anyone rather the community council has been defunct for awhile and Mark and Canonical really haven’t done much of anything to address community concerns about the abandonment of the project by the “benevolent dictator”

From the Ubuntu Community Code of Comduct:
“ Responsibility for the project starts with the “benevolent dictator”, who delegates specific responsibilities and the corresponding authority to a series of teams, councils and individuals, starting with the Community Council (“CC”). That Council or its delegated representative will arbitrate in any dispute.

We are a meritocracy; we delegate decision making, governance and leadership from senior bodies to the most able and engaged candidates.”

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Thank you for your elaborate response. I read through the other discussion. I understand your position better now and continue to hope that the Ubuntu Community stays alive. Both in this discussion and the one that you provided a link to, there are skeptics and more positive voices. I do stand with the positive voices. As some rightfully say, a governing body might be missing, but perhaps things just simply don’t happen the way they were done before. And, apart from that, as long as there are people who believe in the project, the project will stay alive. I even see progress in more than one field. And perhaps one has to be a GNOME 3 fan to see a silver lining as well. I think they are doing a splendid job and are thriving. Add to this the unique position of Ubuntu to bring Linux to the masses (with old (Steam) and new collaborations (Windows, Google, Lenovo) and I think Ubuntu can have a bright future.

The one thing that I think is still missing - and I said this many times before here on Discourse - is a clear Marketing effort towards the desktop, for instance on the official website.


Opinion: Ubuntu has transitioned from “new-and-scrappy” to “mature.” Each appeals to different folks.

The comments by @bkerensa2 and @Norbert are excellent examples of constructive criticism by folks who want Ubuntu to succeed. Both seem more-or-less well-reasoned, present good examples, and avoid ranting. Thanks to you both for being constructive – it enhances your argument.

I don’t fully agree with the conclusions: I see plenty of new volunteers in AskUbuntu, new respins of Ubuntu appearing regularly, healthy downstream distros, new testers showing up here in various threads, and volunteers seem to have refreshed Translations and the Ubuntu Weekly News within the past couple years. I think that it’s perfectly natural for some folks to lose interest as Ubuntu matures…while others join anew.

I don’t see that as cherry-picking a couple success stories among greater failure. I see it as volunteers-being-volunteers and going where they are interested and welcomed, as volunteers have always done.

Should the Community Council be resurrected? Strong ‘Yes’ from here. Kudos to folks working to influence in that direction.


I don’t think Ubuntu is going anywhere but I think there needs to be a discussion about the future of Ubuntu governance and that really requires Mark to come to the table and engage the community and tell us his plans since he is the project leader and he is the owner of the defunct community Council.

Ultimately the ball is in his court and the community is waiting to hear his plans.


A post was split to a new topic: First Time Rant

I don’t think it’s fair to draw this conclusion. You said yourself earlier in the same post:

Seems to me that these posts are intended to fulfill the community liaison function, and therefore what is going on is the exact opposite of what you fear. Mark and/or Canonical are taking community needs seriously and are putting money towards necessary improvements. There were people employed before to do this, and as those roles got diluted (eg. towards snap community), more people are being hired to make up for that. I just don’t see how you infer “replace his role in governance and alter the way governance functions” from this.

Edit: I see that my Canonical badge is showing, but note that I can’t speak for Canonical on this. I don’t have any inside knowledge. I’m just wearing my Ubuntu community hat here, making an observation on publicly available information.

If you mean that Ubuntu matured enough to transition from open source community to Microsoft support forums, yes I totally agree.
Is this something bad? No.
Am I feeling motivated to contribute? No.
Do I wish the best to Ubuntu and his new contributors? Yes, totally.

I tend to believe that the proof is in the pudding. I don’t really see any steps being taken, any resources being allocated, or more people being hired. What are the specifics here?

Furthermore, if Mark/Canonical care so much about the community, why isn’t Mark and/or someone who can speak for Canonical replying to these concerns, which have been raised multiple times not only across the forums but in many other venues? I’m not trying to imply that this isn’t a point of concern, but the optics of non-response is not good.

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I don’t think we need Mark or Canonical in this discussion. I very much believe in do-ocracy: If we want an organized community effort, then why don’t we just create one? I would be happy to help out but it’s just not clear to me what is needed exactly. I think this discussion is a great place to figure out what we actually want and need as a community.

What kind of governance are we looking for? What are the concrete problems we want solved? I don’t see why we need to wait for Canonical’s approval. On the contrary, I think an initiative created by the community will be a lot more successful and sustainable. Bottom-up instead of top-down.

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The Community Council’s primary purpose was to serve as an avenue for dispute resolution, among other things. We could probably make this up on our own but it’s hard for it to serve this purpose if all parties involved do not consider it a reasonable authority. For that matter, in the event that a dispute requires some sort of punitive action, Canonical’s IS team needs to recognize it as a reasonable authority in order to take action. So it does need Canonical.

I would also like to think that the Community Council, at least without any community liason in place (like the aforementioned Jono Bacon), served to sort of steer the direction of the community, inspiring and encouraging, and networking people together to solve larger problems. This is probably easier to implement, but in the event that something required resources (funds or otherwise) from Canonical, again, the question of authority comes up.

@bkerensa2 linked to posted job openings in his original post. That’s evidence of resources being allocated in terms of more people being hired.

I think it’s reasonable to assume that further steps will be taken specifically by those new hires once they are hired.

Again - I think that’ll become evident once the new hires being hired specifically for this purpose are onboarded.


Ok, your initial post made the response sound a lot more extensive than a couple job postings. I guess that is a reasonable action, though.

Still, community is kept going through communication. Not everyone who is concerned about this issue is searching job postings. Making it really clear to everyone what Canonical’s goals/direction for the community is would be incredibly wise and do much to help support whoever these new hires are.


I wonder how many times the Community Council actually needed to use their “hard power” in order to do this dispute resolution. I haven’t really kept up with what the CC did over the years but I think many issues can be solved simply by having a respected third party help out.

I also think that the issue of “hard power” is one we can solve if/when we get to that point. Canonical still clearly cares about the community, so it’s very likely that Canonical would help this initiative if/when their help is needed.

I agree that we need Canonical to use the funds, but many resources such as Launchpad are already freely available to anyone in the community. I also think we could achieve a great deal without any funds whatsoever. As you said it yourself, I think inspiration and encouragement are some of the most powerful tools. Take KDE as an example of how powerful inspiration is.

Moreover, I think that Canonical would be happy to support such an initiative. But I think the first step is to create the initiative. Canonical’s support is not the first step.

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I brought all that up from having experienced both of those needs firsthand. They were never a problem because the Community Council was an established thing. Now, it’s decimated.

And I will most certainly say that disputes can rage quite dramatically. I would not underestimate the collateral damage that can be caused if such situations are not handled delicately and swiftly. Having an impromptu Council that a fraction of folks acknowledge to make decisions isn’t really going to work in those situations. They don’t happen every day, but they are also not uncommon.

Oh, and with regards to Launchpad, the Community Council pretty much owns every team in the Ubuntu community but since no one has access to that except Mark (and IS), that makes for a bit of a problem, too.


It was meant for a lot more than dispute resolution it also existed as the oversight of all other bodies. It’s like the congress whereas the boards below it were like the committees.

True enough. Where other boards struggled to make decisions on their own, they would check in with the Council. Those cases were, in my experience, extremely rare. I can only really think of one, and it ultimately had to do with a far reaching dispute.

It doesn’t really matter at the end of the day Mark is the project leader and he literally has been absentee for more than a year.

This isn’t how a project lead runs any open source project they don’t just abandon the community, governance etc without so much as peep.

This is negligent at best on his behalf and frankly it’s a code of conduct violation as leaders in the Ubuntu Community are supposed to gracefully step down and not just abandon things. Since he the chair of the community council he’s basically sending a message he doesn’t care about the community by disrespecting the very guidelines he helped create for leaders including himself.

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What your proposing is acting like the Ubuntu Governance system and processes haven’t mostly collapsed due to leaders of the CC neglecting to step down gracefully and transition things.

Systems and structures exist for a reason and nobody is in any position to just decide they can fill those roles without Mark’s approval.

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As a side note, my proposal is not to replace the community council with an impromptu one.

I’d like to have a broader discussion about what initiatives we want, how to create them as a community, and what kind of support we might need from Canonical.

If the last council stopped because the leaders were neglecting it, then we might need to re-think whether the CC is the best approach to solve the issues we want solved.