It's easy to notice when an open-source project is rocking. Downloads go up, web chatter blazes brightly, and the media swoons.
It's much harder to notice a void, but that is precisely what James Bellenger has done in his "The Decline Of Gentoo Linux" post. Gentoo used to be hot. Back in 2004 Gentoo's developer base consisted of a small but vocal crowd that touted the distribution's infinite customizability. Gentoo was the "real man's" (or woman's) Linux distribution.
A few years later, you rarely hear anyone talking about Gentoo, and developer attrition has been significant:
What happened? According to Bellenger, the departure of Gentoo's project lead, Daniel Robbins, effectively killed the project:
The most interesting thing about the current state of gentoo is that it's a very clear (and well documented) example of how the success of a large open source project, regardless of the personal devotion of its user base, is tightly coupled to the strength of its leadership. Interesting also that despite the projects strong attraction of "power users", the community has been unable to convert these users into active developers.
Robbins has tried to make a come back, but to no avail.
Despite Bellenger's thesis, it's not clear that Gentoo would have had much of a chance against Ubuntu, anyway, which has consumed much of the Linux desktop attention in the past few years, as a review of Google Trends suggests:… Read more