Is FOSS the reason Linux desktop environments fall behind?

I am kinda new into the linux world. Coming from MacOs where I am used to pay for software and support programmers make a living and getting support for the thing I bought. Yes, it’s mostly closed software (which is not so cool).

Now I come to the linux world and everybody is about “FOSS” all the time.

For me the whole “FOSS” System is the reason linux as a desktop environment falls behind. Not because of the OSS but because of the free. I am big fan of the OSS part! :slight_smile: But not of the “F” part.

The people doing the programming are doing mostly all in their freetime. It’s a hobby. And when somethings get urgent or bills got to be paid, the hobby-projects get abandoned. And I get that.

I would love some “It’s OSS, but pay for it” approach. Software is longer lived - look at all the abandonend great ideas in the linux world.

Simple example: Show me a really working maintained text-expander in the linux world. Espanso? Abandoned. Texpander - for terminal cracks. Autokey? Can’t get it to work. That is such a basic thing I need every day. And I would pay for an app like that. But there is none (at least I have not found it yet. )

“Who would pay for something that’s OSS?” I would. Business owners would. Because they would get support for example. Like “software is OSS, but you gotta figure it out on your own - or you buy it and get support”.

As a business owner I am not a big fan of “free”. I rather pay for something - and then have some reliability in it.

“But donations …” - I donated in the past to programmers and donations are mostly a PITA to give - if the programmers do not use a service - and it is not a business expense. I can not use it in my taxes. If I buy a software it is a business expense.

Coming to fedora I see sooooooo much potential. But I get that the development takes time if people do it all for free.

I believe that is the main reason why desktop environments are still ruled by WIN and MacOs.

As long as we live in the society where we have to pay our bills, make a living - giving people money for their work is a good idea. Because if they have to choose: Do I go for my hobby or do I take the time to earn money to feed my family? The choice is obvious.

That’s my 2 cents on the “F” in “FOSS”. :wink:

Happy week y’all!



good points and nice words i can fully relate on this and i have same thoughts i would definitely buy subscription or license for Fedora if that comes someday to get more better support etc on my needs. Same is as Rhel i have liccense on them, but i wish it comes more upstream with the support and little more user friendly home users it is great Enterprize OS.

I would love to see more Properiaty softwares coming for Linux support, but untill then i have to use other platforms to use my daily workflow apps just to mention Adobe creative cloud and all the apps, Davici Resolve it just works so much better on Windows, Nvidia, My hardware Drivers.

it takes time and i will be monitoring and using Linux still on the side and maybe year or three we will see more better solutions and supports to fill everyones needs

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People always get confused with the word “free” in FOSS, specially when almost the entire ecosystem is also gratis (as in free of charge), but it means libre (as in freedom to see, fork and modify the source code). It’s way easier to understand when not speaking in English.

One can easily make a FOSS application that is paid for. It’s completely okay in the eyes of the GPL and most other licenses. Most people just… don’t do it.

You’ll love to meet elementary OS’s AppCenter, which uses a “pay what you want” model, which Flathub is slowly but surely trying to implement as well.

And guess what, there are plenty of libre software that do it. Matrix and Bitwarden are huge examples of this model, to various degrees of success.

Absolutely agree. Specially at enterprise level, you will almost never convince your boss to donate to something the company uses. You’ll most likely convince them to buy something the company will use.


That’s a really good statement. I’ve had somewhat similar feelings. I have no experience, but believe that living with donations is not a good way to earn. It works in an organisation level if you get some big sponsors on your side, but not as an individual person. Same as being an freelancer, you never know what will feed you next month and in the long run that is too stressful…
On the other hand, one of the main things driving me crazy in this modern era is corporate greed with subscriptions, data harvesting, planned obsolescence and ads everywhere.
For example I don’t think android or windows are bad products, but I do think the corporations behind them have just become evil in their greed for money and control in society.

Absolutely agree that GNU/Linux, BSD, etc. software would be even better quality than it already is and have a greater market share, if there was a talented group of people doing what they love and believe in AND got paid to do it daily.

There is also no point in buying software that you need very seldom. Like for me an office suite is good to have standing by, but I need it maybe twice a year.

If I’d have the spare money, I’d donate to projects that I like, but there is actually so many that it would become a real money pit.

This is really an interesting problem when you think of it. What would be a good prizing model, or how would one even pay for an Linux distro that is a collection of different FOSS packages and all of them deserve their cut.

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Ah, now I get it. But is true. Most people speak of “free to use” when they use the FOSS term. But it makes sense as you explained it.

Yes, I totally love what I see there. That’s a good start in the right direction IMHO. Now I am of course asking myself: How do I get the elementary app store working on my fedora installation? :slight_smile:

So I see that there are expamples of people taking money for their work (as they should), maybe it can work as an inspiration for more people to go that route.

One of the big advantages of linux is also its biggest disadvantage: The spreading of so many distros. I mean it’s cool, that everybody can do their thing - and does their thing. But imagine what could happen if all these forces were bundled into like 10 main distros … :wink:

Really appreciate your feedback - and I already love the fedora community for its openness and great discussions!


Yes, I agree, if you have to rely on the big ones like the adobe suite it is really difficult to create a similar workflow on linux. At least stand being today. And I guess “flatpacks” will be a great support in bringing major propreitary software to linux - as there is only version that has to be maintained for all distros.

When I have found my way through the linux apps jungle I will be making a post of what I found in replacement for my Mac Apps. :slight_smile:

I could not agree more. The data harvesting is one thing that I have no tolerance for either. One of the reasons I switched from IOS to e/Os recently on my phone - and that works like a charm. :slight_smile: There is really a lot of FOSS apps on open android (more than on linux even) - and if I need something proprieatray I can use the Aurora store and have the app in a second profile.

And what would be a good price model? Well, it depends, I guess. For me it would be totally fair to pay like a 10 € a month for a fedora license. Or a 99 with every upgrade, but that is for me living in the first world. So I think, the idea of keeping a “free” version by the side without support would be a good idea.

For the apps: On Mac there is “Setapp” which is a collection of really good apps and you pay 9,95$ a month for it. But I guess they can use this low price as they get many users for it. Maybe a 30/month for a great App pack would be a good thing?

Or on the other hand that people really treat the programming as their business and charge for it. Like I paid 99$ in the beginning for screenflow - and have to pay a reduced price for every major upgrade. (like 40$) .

I think it would be a good idea to study some apps that do well on MacOs and get some data. How much do they charge? How much do they sell? And how could one model that? :slight_smile:

I guess it’s still a way to go until the “buy these FOSS packages” bundles.

My brain is melting from all the scenarios and paradoxes right now and that’s a good. It’s fun to think about stuff.

I have spent roughly around 400 euros for a genuine retail windows license in the past 17 years and I think that it is a good bargain. I’m actually surprised that windows is so cheap to keep. It would be around 2€/month.
With that prize I would be totally fine if they refused to upgrade my licence to win11 without some extra cash. (I’d like to keep that licence alive for just in case, even if I don’t have an active windows machine at the moment.)

Personally I don’t like monthly subscriptions. They make me feel like the companies hang me by the angles and shake money from my pockets. Those little payments add up in a way that some people may not even realize. A one time larger sum of money in exchange of a physical install media that you own after the transaction makes me feel more in control of the situation. (Or a download that you can burn to a disc for backup.) With subsequent payments for major version upgrades.

When you try to put that mindset in the linux distro world, it could work with LST releases but not with distros like fedora that have a quick upgrade cycle… For Fedora I was thinking that considering my finances, I would be fine for paying around 200e for a five year license and I do realize that it’s not enough to keep the workers happy and drip down to all the projects that are included in the distro.

But then comes the question how would the distro control the licenses? It would require some sort of telemetry checks and/or forced account creation. There are people that would feel this as a privacy violation. Personally I’d prefer the telemetry checks if these two were the options…

I don’t know does one exist, but an union for foss developers would be nice. Like a NGO that you could send your donation and they would distribute it with an option to endorse certain projects or just a general donation.

On windows side the only software besides games that I have ever paid for is an antivirus. I really don’t do any productive work enough to feel paying for the software licenses is justified. Always chosen the foss option if possible.

I love one time payment style and I even do some upgrades for certain amount of payment needed good example is VMware I have workstation pro license and if I choose to upgrade it to new version I pay discounted price for upgrade and that is if I choose to upgrade for latest/newest. Davinci resolve I might get one time payment for studio someday just for upgrade and more on support the development.

Most monthly subscriptions I have is cloud gaming and streaming subscriptions GeForce now, Xbox game pass, adobe GeForce is only creative app I keep on monthly subscription,

Yearly I have playstation plus premium and domain/hosting stuff

So it all comes to needs, services what I choose and need I am willing to pay

I like ideas to implement payments/services on distro subscriptions like there is free to use and upgrade it to get some better stuff support, security etc

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Adobe uses background process/services to connect subscription platform just to verify it is licensed and verified if I remember correctly I can check that tomorrow what it had no privacy violation there

GNOME and KDE in Fedora Linux have opened me massive opportunities to feature-rich applications through RPMs and flatpaks.

I presume it is unjust to compare the desktop environment (DE in short afterwards) maintained by behemoths of paid developers with FOSS-maintained DE (partly funded by enterprise and private benefactors).

Instead, we have freedom to switch DEs and jump to window managers.

About the FOSS packages, from what I have seen between FOSS users community (hobby and enterprise) and enterprise users (often pay for self-hosting and managed services), I think healthy balance exists. Of course, my observation goes beyond DE.

Community version of Ansible is a good example.

Self-reliant admins will advocate the use of community version whenever they can. Even the scale is beyond a few sys admins can manage, free community version will still prevail until critical maintenance issues haunt the entire company.

Self-hosting license is another example. You can use free version almost indefinitely until you decide to implement self-hosting license. That’s why government and law enforcement in Europe adopt self-hosting license, which is based on popular FOSS. The most popular choice of Linux DE for enterprise is GNOME and KDE.

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Thank you for the example. Good to see that there are already projects on a larger scale which are paid.

How you pointed out this on big enterprise - government level - which is great. Additionally I would love to see projects that serve small / medium business owners. (Who are more by number btw. :wink: ). Especially for the DE environment.

And in comparision to a MacOs fedora Gnome is already very close. Yes, some things still miss - other things are even better (the native keyboard control is soooo user friendly for example). So I am not saying this to belittle fedora - au contraire - I think it’s already doing an amazing job as an OS. I just believe with more paid developers involved the linux world itself could move much faster - and be more attractive - also as a DE for people who use want to use it professionally.

The Internet is run on Linux is what I understand to be true. Why? My take is that the freedom to modify and redistribute accelerated the development. Some was done gratis but a whole lot was done by paid programmers. How is that possible? Quite a number of employers saw the benefit in the FOSS (not sure if this is the best term) paradigm in those areas. All the top 500 supercomputers run Linux. The whole container ecology is a similar success story for FOSS. But so far there has not been a similar revolution in the desktop use case.

What would it take to get many industries to contribute software development to all the apps they seem too readily willing to pay for with Microsoft and Apple schemes? Historically this has been a hard sell and uphill battle. Remember when OSI labeled proprietary MS file formats open?

I think participation in the development of desktop Linux by the world’s large desktop userbase employers would allow for the evolution of desktop computing that would outpace anything MS or Apple have ever produced. Spreading this vision will be more beneficial than direct monitary means though donating money is great too.

Interesting point of view! Here is a good intro about FOSS for small business

CRM system is the largest part in any business where there is no IT person (or owner is a hybrid IT) for small business. Digital signage for shop front and menu board is increasingly powered by kiosk version of Linux (loT). In this case, DE is less relevant for owners :slight_smile: Owners expect trouble-free and zero downtime to run screens and POS, which are revenue.

  • FOSS version: Fedora IoT
  • Commercial Edge deployment: RHEL Edge
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It’s worthwhile to also note that Linux on the desktop doesn’t actually fall behind Windows or macOS. Linux desktops currently provide far more functionality, stability, and performance than both Windows and macOS desktops, and can be configured pretty close to feature parity for things like gaming, Netflix (widevine), and so on.

The difference is focus: Windows and macOS target a different use case (general public expecting paid product support) than Linux (FOSS). Of course, there are some edge cases (e.g., the Linux-based Steamdeck and ChromeOS), but that doesn’t necessary mean that the Linux desktop falls behind Windows and macOS - for those who want a powerful desktop and aren’t afraid to customize their OS, Linux is by far the superior choice. This is why it’s gaining traction very quickly with developers (myself included), gamers, and those in STEM-related fields.


Linux users are who run linux on low-end or older “unloved and unwanted” hardware that can’t run current versions of Windows or macOS are an important segment of the FOSS community. This includes both experienced users coming from a background that included commercial linux and users whose previous experience has been limited to smart phones and tablets. Linux on older hardware provides a cost-effective way for new users to get a start in many aspects of computing and develop skills that are in high demand.

Supporting users that are not targets for Microsoft and Apple marketng does, however, mean that linux has to support a wider range of hardware in terms both of age and capabilities.


Sage points all around :slight_smile:

The elementary and secondary school boards in my area always install Linux on older Macs and Chromebooks that no longer receive Google updates to keep them useful and out of the landfill.

This also reminds me of a book Lucy Snyder wrote back in 2007 called Installing Linux on a Dead Badger (which indirectly described the process used to install Linux on older Sun/SGI/IBM systems that had become EOL in large numbers at the time to extend their useful life).

I’m curious about this, and maybe a Red Hatter here can weigh in(?).

I think this is the conventional wisdom, but in recent years I’ve come to think that quite a lot of Linux ecosystem development is done by people under the banner of (and getting paid by) big tech companies. I keep seeing tables like this one showing contributors to the Linux kernel with a bunch of corporate names. Maybe there’s a big difference here between the kernel and desktop environment stuff(?). Certainly there are lots of little hobby projects like you say, but I also get the sense that the big, critical things (e.g. GNOME, Firefox) are run by full-time professionals at Red Hat, Mozilla, etc. and not especially dependent on community volunteers. Am I mistaken?

I don’t think this is true. I think the main reason is that

  • Microsoft was / is in the business of ensuring that their software comes pre-installed on every PC ever sold
  • and Apple is in the business of selling devices that have their software pre-installed
  • and 99% of consumers aren’t interested in, or comfortable with, figuring out how to deviate from the default by wiping their hard drives and installing some Linux distro (especially when most third-party hardware and software vendors cater to Windows and MacOS first, because they have 99% market share, so many consumer products won’t “just work” with Linux)

It’s hard for me to imagine how paying FOSS developers would change those facts. I agree with @jasoneckert that desktop Linux is already just as good or better (within the constraint that some third party hardware and software just doesn’t care to play ball with Linux, like I said, and that’s not the FOSS developers’ fault).

I’m also not convinced that FOSS projects get abandoned more, or don’t last as long, as paid software products. I might even argue the opposite. Planned obsolescence seems to be the strategy for a lot of paid products, and being able to replace their software with FOSS seems to be the primary way to extend their lives.

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Product is not the same as a project. Many paid products rely heavily on FOSS tools and libraries (even after the FOSS project is no longer active). FOSS artifacts are often found in paid products, but paid products can’t be included in FOSS projects. Artifacts generated by FOSS projects can outlast the project because users are able to modify them to make them work in environments that didn’t exist when the artifact was created.

Windows and macOS are designed to allow users to work exclusively with GUI applications. The linux community has not adopted the all-GUI all the time model. While many common operations are supported in newer linux desktops, less common operations can require use of the command-line. Where linux is behind is mostly in vendor support for devices. Some vendors don’t even try to make devices work with linux, others provide support that lags behind the other platforms.