Why What FOSS Needs is a Unified Message

by Ostatic Staff - Mar. 17, 2011

Does the FOSS movement suffer from not having a strong person who functions as its leader? Noting the impact that figureheads such as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have had, that's the question that TechNewsWorld tackles in a post based on a poll on TuxRadar. Of course, the FOSS movement has had notable leaders over the years, ranging from Linus Torvalds to Richard Stallman, but there is no single charismatic leader who regularly keeps open source and open standards topics alive in public conversations. While one person with enough charisma might make a big difference, though, what FOSS really needs is more unified messaging, and on the commercial open source front, more unified marketing.

 One person dubbed hairyfeet commenting on the TuxRadar poll writes:

"Why does Apple 'just work' for so many? Why is Windows on 90%+ of the world's computers? Because both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates had a VISION, a way they wanted things to be, and they made sure things went that direction."

Actually, those who have followed Steve Jobs over the years note that he is more a master of marketing than anything else. Beginning with its iconic 1984-themed television ad decades ago (shown above), Apple has always benefited from strong marketing. As for Bill Gates, he realized very early in the rise of personal computers that winning developers to the Windows platform was critical to Microsoft's success. In both cases, these leaders leveraged business ideas more than just charisma.

Increasingly, FOSS projects that experience true success head into commercial channels. This has been true for projects ranging from Hadoop to Drupal to Linux. But FOSS projects rarely benefit from the kind of unified marketing and messaging that go on at proprietary technology companies.

As Joe Brockmeier noted here on OStatic in a post on what Linux needs:

"If you took the marketing budgets of all the Linux vendors combined, and then doubled that figure, and then added a zero, you might start approaching what Microsoft spends on marketing Windows. Maybe. The ad councils for various industries have the right idea -- it's a good idea to pool your money to grow the market when you're jointly competing with another industry. It'd be much better for Linux awareness if, in addition to advertising for specific distros and products, we had a general ad campaign to get the word out about Linux and its advantages."

That's true, but such an effort would require unified, coordinated efforts that are rarely seen on the FOSS front, where fragmented efforts tend to rule the day. With such unifed, coordinated messaging efforts, FOSS could become a much bigger force than it is today.