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Why prominent 'hobbyist' operating systems face an existential crisis

Chris Hoffman | Nov. 17, 2014
Do you think Linux is an alternative, hobbyist operating system? Ha! Linux is mainstream. These are the real hobbyist operating systems--passion projects worked on by a handful of developers in their spare time.

But I love these projects

This was hard to write. As a geek interested in this stuff, I love watching hobbyist operating systems. I've been waiting to try a more mature release of Haiku for a long time, and the goal of ReactOS is so ambitious you can't help but wish success to its developers. The point of this article is absolutely not to call out and shame the hobbyist developers who use their time to work on inspiring and interesting things. They are awesome people.

All the same, these projects seem stuck in a perpetual alpha state. The goal of creating an awesome operating system for everyone sounds great, but day by day, the already slim chances of Haiku and ReactOS providing that diminish even further. Even Linux distributions like Fedora are accepting they won't be used by the masses, refocusing on becoming an impressive desktop for developers instead of a mainstream desktop for everyone.

But maybe that's okay. These projects can just be toys for developers to work on and novelties for users to fire up in a virtual machine. That's what they are, and they're still interesting in that role. But they're not going to take over the world — or even stand up to desktop Linux.


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