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Can KDE Survive Without Ubuntu?

Jonathan Riddell, the KDE developer, recently announced that Canonical stopping funding the Kubuntu project and reassigning him in a new role. Looking at Canonical’s focus on Unity, that’s not a surprising move. I don’t know how Canonical works, but looking at the new challenges they set for themselves with every release,  I do think they need all the hands they can get. The result of that hard work is evident – Unity is shaping up really well.

Now, Jonathan has blogged again, this time there are new questions.

He writes:

Since I had to announce that Canonical was dropping support for Kubuntu from 12.11 (and then had to announce two days later they were dropping support for 12.04) I’ve been getting lots of people asking “is this the end of KDE?”

I don’t know if he meant the end of KDE or the end of Kubuntu because, in my opinion, KDE is a far bigger community outside of Kubuntu. There are many distributions such as Chakra, Mephis, Mandriva, Mageia, etc. So, I will be interested in learning how much of KDE’s survival depends on Kubuntu.

I don’t want to guess; I am looking for facts so if you have any figures about how much KDE contribution comes from which distribution that will help. Looking at Wikipedia I can see majority of corporate support for KDE came from Nokia, Novell (interestingly the company which signed infamous deal with Microsoft also leads in Gnome development) and Mandriva. I did not see Canonical’s name there.

I do belive KDE has a very bright future, with or without Ubuntu. Unfortunately,  It has not received the limelight and funfair that it deserves. I have recently switched to KDE and am loving it.

Jonathan then pointed at other problems that he thinks plagued KDE:

There is a common meme that ‘we’ve achieved what we wanted 15 years ago’, well free software in general has but KDE is really nowhere near a usable desktop. We miss a decent web browser, our office suite is looking promising but still isn’t much used, the plasma media centre has never got past an alpha stage, Kontact is losing popularity due to a bumpy transition to Akonadi. There’s lots to be working on!

Personally, I don’t think that should be a problem, LibreOffice has a huge team and there is no harm in using it. Calligare is shaping up well, but its still behind. With Firefox and Chrome around I don’t know how important it is to invest resources in building KDE’s own web-browser unless and until you are Google and browser is _the only way_ to access your content. Better integration with Firefox or Chrome can solve the problem of KDE. That said there are some great KDE applications which have no match including K3B, Amarok, Krita, Kdenlive, etc.

Jonathan further writes:

We must remain part of Ubuntu, they are a great community for distros and we couldn’t survive without them. Kubuntu is often incorrectly called a “derivative” of Ubuntu but we are part of the Ubuntu family and we are one of their flavours which is just where we should be.

I don’t understand the part, ‘we can’t survive without them’. Did he mean Kubuntu or KDE? If I look at Kubuntu it is at #27 on Distro Watch, where as other KDE specific distributions which don’t have all the money from Canonical, such a Megia, Mandriva, Charka, Arch are far above (in fact top list is very well balanced by KDE distributions). What is the reason Kubuntu is down there? How important is Ubuntu for the survival of KDE(!) or Kubuntu? [Note: don't give me a lecture about how irrelevant is Distro Watch]

I do see a lot of impressive work is being done on KDE outside Ubuntu. Aaron Seigo has launched the world’s first ‘pure’ Linux (non-Android) tablet. So, why is there a question on KDE’s survival without Ubuntu? Ubuntu is undoubtedly the most popular GNU/Linux distribution and it can definitely boost the user-base of any project, only if it is baked in Ubuntu. Anything that’s outside the Unity doesn’t hold the same promise. Kubuntu is an important distribution as it brings the goodies of Debian to the KDE world; you get the most advanced DE with one of the most mature base. So, yes Ubuntu is an important distribution which must have a KDE derivative. But, as I asked above, does KDE’s existence rely on Ubuntu that much?

If we move away from KDE and look at the survival of Kubuntu then we need answers to some different question. What’s gone wrong with Kubuntu? Why is it so low in popularity on DW? How can we help Kubuntu to grow?

Can a name change help?

Jonathan says:

But do we need a new name? Kubuntu has never been a great name, it was actually a joke name made up by the original Ubuntu developers for the KDE side. I wonder if a new name would give us a new lease of life like Calligra has. Suggestions welcome :)

As a new KDE user, I personally feel KDE has great potential. The team is doing a great job and Jonathan has contributed heavily to make Kubuntu what it is today.

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What do you think as a KDE user? Do you have answers to any of the questions mentioned above? If yes use the comment section below and share with the wold!

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Swapnil Bhartiya

A free software fund-a-mental-ist and Charles Bukowski fan, Swapnil also writes fiction and tries to find cracks in the paper armours of proprietary companies. Swapnil has been covering Linux and Free Software/Open Source since 2005.

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