Red Hat in the rearview mirror

Red Hat users had become so ideologically inbred that there were only three sizable groups of users...

Red Hat in the rearview mirror
Photo by Agnieszka Boeske / Unsplash

I’ve used all the moving parts of the Red Hat ecosystem, at some point, over the years. It wasn’t until now, that I could see them all in the rearview mirror, that all those parts came into focus, simultaneously.

As an everyday Linux user, not just when I have to use a server, but as my only desktop for more than 25 years, I never saw anything unusual about any of the Red Hat distro's. Like any big Linux, their stuff was fine.

What I could not see, until now, was that the users of the three Red Hat users had become so ideologically inbred that there were only three sizable groups of users: Software developers, the US military & space programs, and millions and millions of freeloaders. Most of those freeloaders didn’t even know they were freeloading. Practically the entire internet runs, for free, on CentOS, which Red Hat has owned for several years now. From the nearly endless list of small businesses running a website at hosts like GoDaddy, to huge multinationals including Facebook, nearly everyone used CentOS, so Red Hat was earning nothing for any of those systems, neither from CentOS itself, nor from any of several other copycat distro's.

In 2019, Red Hat announced a plan to continue to support the free community side of Linux, while booting the freeloaders. They announced the end of CentOS being a free copycat of their premier product; future versions of CentOS, called Stream, would be a free, rolling, community preview—approximating what the final Red Hat version would be. Their narrow interpretation of Linux licensing cut-out the other copycat distro's as well. The reaction of thousands upon thousands of internet (mostly hosting) businesses was predictable; like shutting-down the kegs at a frat party. Once they got done complaining, they started looking for a work-around; they’re still looking—and can’t yet agree what route is best.

The interesting part for me is that, from this rearview mirror, we can now clearly see that no part of the Red Hat ecosystem has any desktop end-users! The Developers are both making & using Fedora, but no one else is. They’ve even started abandoning hardware support for anything that’s no longer a part of new computers. They don’t care because they have no end users—the developers all buy new systems fairly often. Red Hat itself has no Desktop users. Everything is designed for servers, or bleeding-edge custom systems like the Mars lander, the newest class of American aircraft carrier, or the next Tesla firmware patch.

It’s weird to see all of Red Hat, including Fedora, off of the computer desktop, but they chose to walk away from that part of the market.