Some Of The Grandest Open-Source / Linux Letdowns Over The Years

Written by Michael Larabel in Free Software on 1 April 2018 at 10:42 AM EDT. 40 Comments
There are no April Fool's Day surprises on Phoronix, but considering the occasion and the otherwise slow Easter weekend, I figured it would be fun to discuss some of the grandest open-source/Linux letdowns or failures from over the years... Here's a trip back down memory lane for some once promising projects and goals.

Below is the list I came up with this morning. Feel free to chime in via the forums or on Twitter with your thoughts and other letdowns in the Linux/open-source space over the years. No hard feelings, just figured it would be fun to discuss and look back at some of these projects especially for newer Linux users that may have never heard of them. The list is in no particular order.

Red Hat Mugshot - Remember that Red Hat used to have a social network? Red Hat launched Mugshot back in 2006 as a social network that included a website as well as a desktop client. The code was under open-source licenses and it integrated with other platforms, but around 2009 is when it was finally killed off with it not really being used much.

Lindows / Linspire - Remember back to the days of "Lindows"? While they can be applauded for their work on trying to make an easy-to-use Linux distribution pre-Ubuntu, their ambitions to bundle Wine by default for Windows software compatibility, Lindows/Linspire appearing on a few retail PCs, etc, but it never really panned out in the end. Though earlier this year Linspire did debut in a new form with a new company acquiring its rights.

Ubuntu Edge / Ubuntu Mobile / Ubuntu Convergence / Ubuntu For Android - Of course, the list wouldn't be complete without mentioning the failed Ubuntu Edge smartphone campaign and the years of work on Ubuntu Mobile and the convergence dream. It's nearly one year ago to the day that Canonical officially ceased these plans to focus on their more profitable avenues ahead of a potential IPO in the coming years. Canonical can be applauded for their ambitions and trying to drive Ubuntu for phones, but it just really didn't pan out. There was also the earlier Ubuntu For Android concept that really didn't pan out.

Ubuntu TV - Back in 2012 another ambition from Canonical was Ubuntu as a smart TV platform that was abandoned much quicker...

Ubuntu One - While Ubuntu One still exists as a single sign-on service, it used to be a file hosting / personal cloud platform until that was shutdown in 2014. Along with offering a paid file service, users could also purchase MP3 music on Ubuntu One too.

GNOME 10x10 - Back in the early 2000's, the GNOME Project had an ambitious "10x10" goal to "Own 10 % of the Global Desktop Market by 2010." Well, that certainly didn't happen. In some niche markets Linux/GNOME may have conquered that, but certainly not in the global market or key markets around the world. Nearly a decade later, they aren't close to hitting their 10x10 goal and the latest desktop statistics put Linux desktop marketshare as a whole at maybe 2~3%.

Steam Machines / SteamOS - Five or so years after Steam Machines were first talked about and now over two years since they first officially began to ship, they are mostly non-existent these days... Most of you will probably agree that first-generation Steam Machines were a large flop as for the devices and adoptions themselves, but at least it led more game studios/developers to bringing their games to Linux. There aren't any new Steam Machines being talked about in 2018 but some hoping Valve secretly has plans for a Steam Machines comeback in the future. Valve does continue to maintain SteamOS, but it's not as great as when it was first envisioned. We'll see what Valve does in the future and they still continue to invest in Linux, but for now Steam Machines certainly deserves a spot on our letdown list.

Northfield / Norwood - Remember when Wayland/Weston got forked by a vocal developer? Well, that fork quickly faded away...

Cedega / Game Tree Linux - Deserving an honorable mention on our list is Cedega/WineX as a hard fork of Wine back when it was X11 licensed. Cedega/TransGaming deserves a mention for trying to improve the Linux gaming scene back when there weren't many Linux game titles coming out, but it didn't pan out financially for them. TransGaming then was working on a new form called GameTree Linux, but it really didn't pan out either. At least upstream Wine and CodeWeavers' CrossOver continues flourishing.

Loki Software - Linux gaming would likely be much further along today if Loki Software hadn't gone belly up back in 2001. Loki Software was responsible for many of the first notable games on Linux including titles like Unreal Tournament, Rune, Soldier of Fortune, Tribes, Sim City 3000, Myth II, Heavy Gear, and many other games from 1998 to 2001. Rising from the ashes of Loki was then Linux Game Publishing that sadly faded away over the years following their lone server crashing.

Open-Source Video Editors - While Kdenlive, OpenShot, and others continue to be around, open-source non-linear video editors for Linux continue to be one area that really struggles and leaves a lot to be desired compared to the commercial software on Linux/macOS. Linux video editors seem to be crashing less these days, but I still hear cries of memory bloat, missing features, and other problems making the open-source video editing scene less than ideal.

OpenMoko - Remember Openmoko and the days of the Neo 1973 and Neo FreeRunner? The project was once very promising for open-source mobile phones, but sadly it didn't pan out.

ZFS For Mainline Linux - Prior to Sun Microsystems being acquired by Oracle, there were rumbles and once a cryptic picture of Linus Torvalds and a Sun rep, leading to much hope and speculation that Sun could re-license ZFS to become part of the mainline Linux kernel... But to date that hasn't panned out and recent indications are Oracle has no plans to change direction. OpenZFS at least is thriving with out-of-tree support on Linux and great support by the BSDs, but it's just too bad that there isn't mainline Linux kernel support for ZFS.

OpenSolaris - Also a casualty of Sun Microsystems having been acquired by Oracle is OpenSolaris. For a while I had a lot of hope and interest for OpenSolaris, but that went away as soon as Oracle got its hands on Sun.

Other letdowns that come to mind include the FSF high priority project list while it's still around has mostly been fluff with no real action by FSF to accomplish those items, open-source game engines for the most part largely remaining in a sad state but with some good projects still around like 0 A.D. and Battle for Wesnoth and Unvanquished, Gobuntu, Remix OS / Android on x86, Maemo fading away after the N900 and Nokia, etc. Some of the Linux distributions I have the fondest memories with are Mandrake, MEPIS, Yoper, and a Knoppix derivative that no longer comes to mind.

What other open-source/Linux letdowns do you have over the years or great open-source memories from the past? With writing thousands of articles over the past 14 years on Phoronix, there is also likely much more that I since forgot about. Share with us in the forums.
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Michael Larabel

Michael Larabel is the principal author of and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via

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