As we bid farewell to 2023, it’s time to reflect on the dynamic and transformative journey of the open-source ecosystem over the past year. We’ve had quite a year with many notable events, so now it’s the perfect moment to share the highlights. So, grab a warm drink, cozy up by the Christmas tree, and let’s dive in.
After 30 Years, Linux Finally Hits 3% Market Share
Linux has a long history that dates back more than 30 years. Fortunately, according to StatCounter, in June 2023, Linux finally reached a 3% market share in the desktop segment. While some may see this figure as modest, it signifies a growing acceptance and recognition of the power and versatility of Linux.
From wherever one looks, the operating system is no longer what it was 20 years ago – a complex equation available only to highly technically enlightened hackers.
These days, with exceptionally easy-to-use and entirely user-centric desktop-focused distributions such as Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Pop!_OS, Fedora, Manjaro, etc., Linux is poised to become an even more formidable player in the world of operating systems aimed at the everyday computing needs of the average desktop user.
So, who knows, we can finally live to see the year of “Linux on the desktop.”
Linux Outranks macOS on the Steam Platform
Historically, Linux has been regarded primarily as an operating system for servers, developers, and tech enthusiasts, with gaming as an afterthought. Well, this is no longer the case!
As a direct consequence of the growing popularity of Linux on a desktop, referring to Valve’s monthly reports, in July 2023, Linux overtook Apple’s macOS as the preferred gaming OS for the Steam platform for the first time in history.
According to the data, Linux is used by 1.96% of all Steam users, while macOS counts for 1.84%, with Arch continuing to be the most preferred gaming distro over the last year, followed by Ubuntu, Manjaro, and Linux Mint.
Of course, much of the credit for this achievement goes to Valve. In 2018, the company introduced Proton, a compatibility layer built on top of Wine and other open-source technologies, allowing thousands of Windows-exclusive games on Steam to run seamlessly on Linux. So, thank you, Valve! We love you!
Red Hat Restricts Access to Its Source Code
As sad as it is, one of the two events with a negative sign on our list is one of the most memorable of the past 2023 events. Regardless of how it was explained or justified, Red Hat crossed the red line in June by taking an unprecedented step: limiting access to its source codes.
While the outcome wasn’t as successful as the time when the company managed to effectively end the usability of CentOS as a server platform, this move had significant consequences for the major RHEL derivatives, compelling them to rethink the strategies underlying their distributions.
As a result, AlmaLinux has declared that from now on, it will only maintain ABI compatibility with Red Hat Enterprise Linux. In contrast, Rocky affirms its steadfast commitment to its original objective, pledging to preserve a 1:1 and bug-to-bug compatibility, though not delving into the specific methods for this accomplishment.
As for Oracle, they remain true to their typical approach, criticizing Red Hat’s decision without demonstrating embarrassment at the state of affairs.
However, Red Hat’s move also led to something very positive for the enterprise Linux community – the emergence of the OpenELA project, dedicated to providing and making the source code for all downstream RHEL-based distributions freely available.
Ubuntu Said Goodbye to Flatpak Support
We want to be clear – Ubuntu is a phenomenon, a great distro, possessing undeniable strengths acknowledged even by its harshest critics. Additionally, its contribution to making Linux widely popular among general computer users is immeasurably significant.
However, some of Canonical’s decisions are challenging for the open-source community to accept. One such that marked the passing of 2023 was the one taken in February, regarding that, starting with Ubuntu 23.04 “Lunar Lobster,” Ubuntu’s flavors will no longer include Flatpak support by default.
Yes, I know Ubuntu has never included Flatpak support in the default installation of its releases. But what about its flavors, including Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Ubuntu MATE, etc., some of which provided such support by default?
Understandably, Canonical is keen to promote its in-house developed distribution-agnostic software distribution approach, emphasizing Snap over Flatpak. However, the reality is different, as the Linux community favors Flatpak as the go-to package format.
Flathub Has a Billion Reasons to Celebrate
In confirmation of the above, in May 2023, Flathub reached an impressive milestone – 1 billion downloads and counting, as proof of the popularity and utility of Flatpaks.
One of the most compelling aspects of Flatpak’s success is its distribution-agnostic approach. In addition, it also addresses the critical aspect of security by sandboxing applications and isolates them from the rest of the system.
Yes, the Canonical-developed Snap format offers similar features. Still, the open-source community has clearly preferred an independently managed service provider over a company-controlled one. Is anyone surprised?
By offering a secure, universal, and developer-friendly solution, Flatpak is not just a technological innovation; it’s a catalyst for a more unified and accessible Linux ecosystem. So, as the Linux landscape continues to evolve, Flatpak will undoubtedly play a critical role in shaping its future.
Linux LTS Kernels Moves to a Two-Year Support Period
Usually, the Linux LTS (Long Term Support) kernel versions are supported for six years. This maintenance period includes a period of active support plus a period of extended support, during which critical security updates and bug fixes are provided.
However, during the Open Source Summit Europe in Bilbao, Spain, in September, Jonathan Corbet, Linux kernel developer, informed that a significant change is on the horizon – the Long Term Support for kernel versions is expected to be reduced from six to two years.
There are two main driving reasons behind this decision. As he said, the first is that “There’s really no point to maintaining it for that long because people aren’t using them.” We agree. After all, who in 2023 relies on and needs support for Linux kernel 4.14?
The second one is that maintaining such old versions necessitates a lot of work that takes effort that you and I often don’t even realize. Unfortunately, only a few developers are being paid for their hard work. The solution is simple – the companies that rely on Linux must recognize that giving back financially is in their best interests.
Xorg’s Final Curtain
Xorg has been the cornerstone of graphical display in Linux for decades, providing the fundamental architecture for graphical user interfaces. Its extensive history and wide adoption made it a default choice for many distributions.
However, its age is showing. Xorg’s architecture, designed in the 1980s, struggles to keep pace with modern graphical requirements, particularly regarding security and efficiency.
In 2023, prominent Linux distributions and open-source projects announced their plans to transition to Wayland in 2024. For example, the upcoming and highly anticipated release in February, the KDE Plasma 6 desktop environment, will be Wayland by default.
Furthermore, GNOME is not far behind, as it is taking steps towards dropping X11. At the same time, Fedora plans to drop X11 support in Plasma 6 completely. Lastly, Red Hat has announced that its future RHEL 10 will rely entirely on Wayland.
So, while the transition won’t happen overnight, the trend in 2024 indicates a clear preference for Wayland’s modern architecture.
Raspberry Pi 5 Promises to Be a Game Changer
If you’re a tech enthusiast, maker, or someone who loves to tinker with electronics, Raspberry Pi 5 is on its way to draw a new era of do-it-yourself technology.
But why is this SBC so crucial for open source in general? It predominantly runs on Linux-based operating systems, like Raspberry Pi OS. This aligns well with the preferences of millions of Linux and tech enthusiast looking for a reliable platform for their self-hosted projects.
And the Raspberry Pi won’t let them down as it represents a significant overhaul of the platform, ensuring users enjoy a seamless and uncompromising experience. More precisely, it boasts an impressive performance boost, with its processing capabilities exceeding 2 to 3 times those of its forerunner
PipeWire Hits v1.0.0
PipeWire provides a single framework for managing both audio and video streams. This is a step up from the traditional Linux audio infrastructure (like PulseAudio and JACK), which is primarily focused on audio.
In 2023, PipeWire reached a significant milestone with the release of the stable version 1.0.0, representing a giant step forward in Linux audio and video technology, promising improved performance, reliability, and a host of new features.
Compared to other solutions, PipeWire offers low-latency audio processing, crucial for professional audio production and real-time audio applications. At the same time, it introduces improved security features, incorporating sandboxing capabilities that can restrict application access to audio and video devices, enhancing the system’s overall security.
So, overall, PipeWire’s importance to open source in general lies in its ability to provide a unified, low-latency, and secure framework for handling audio and video streams, paving the way for future multimedia innovations on Linux platforms.
That said, version 1.0.0 marks the beginning of a new era, laying the groundwork for all open-source community multimedia experiences for many years.
Top Linux Releases of 2023
Last but not least, this year, the Linux community has been treated to an array of impressive distributions, each bringing unique features and improvements that cater to a wide range of users – from tech-savvy enthusiasts to those newly embarking on their Linux journey.
Here are the ones that impressed us the most. First up, to no one’s surprise, is the timeless Debian, with its 12 “Bookworm” edition. Everything has been said about Debian itself. It’s a more than Linux distribution. It has set the standard against which all others are compared for many years.
Apart from that, however, it’s worth highlighting several other notable releases that raise the bar and are highly recommended. On the desktop front, Linux Mint 21.2, LMDE 6, Fedora 39, Ubuntu 23.10, openSUSE Leap 15.5, and MX Linux 23 stood out with outstanding releases.
Well, these were the most significant events in the world of open source, as seen through our eyes for 2023.
Now, as we find ourselves immersed in the warmth and joy of the festive days, there’s nothing more heartfelt than extending our sincerest wishes to you and your loved ones.
May happiness, peace, and abundant joy fill your hearts and homes. I wish everyone a Merry Christmas filled with love and cherished moments!