What is the difference between a Community Edition and the Main Edition? And if a Community Edition isn’t somehow as official as the Main Edition then what’s the difference between Community Editions and derivative distros? Hopefully after this blog post things will become a little clearer for everyone.
Linux Mint’s purpose is to make an elegant and efficient desktop operating system. As you can see the project is extremely focused on its main purpose and only supports one architecture (x86), one desktop (Gnome) and basically one edition, the Main Edition. Of course the community has other needs and the projects, without loosing focus on its core purpose also wants to address these needs. So the system in place for this is a “best-effort” strategy which consists in appointing a maintainer from the community to work on what we call a “Community Edition”.
Let’s take the KDE Community Edition for instance. Jamie Boo Birse, from Australia, is the man who develops, maintains and is responsible for making a variation of Linux Mint using KDE instead of Gnome. His ISO is part of the Mint family, it’s tested and released in exactly the same way as the Main Edition but he does all the work, the team doesn’t. Now of course, he is himself part of the team but only working on this in his spare time.
So what’s the difference between his edition and the Main one for instance…? Well, it’s labelled “Linux Mint”, it bears the Linux Mint branding and the quality of its releases directly affect the image of Linux Mint as a whole. It’s tested and released in exactly the same way as the Main Edition…. basically it’s almost the same as if it was an official edition. The only reason it’s called a “Community” edition is because it’s maintained by Jamie Boo Birse, in his spare time, and because Jamie doesn’t get paid or compensated in any way for what he does. So the difference between the Main Edition and Community Editions doesn’t have to do with quality, or level of testing, it simply has to do with dedication and focus.
If tomorrow Jamie Boo was hired by Linux Mint and became a full time employee, the main difference wouldn’t have to do with quality or testing. The quality is already very high and we demand as much testing on Community Editions than we do on the Main one. The main difference would be that the KDE Edition would be something we could commit as much as we do with the Main one. Tomorrow we would be in a position to say, this KDE Edition will be released as fast and as frequently as the Main one. In fact the Main one wouldn’t the main one anymore, but probably a Gnome one.. if we started focusing and committing as much on the KDE edition.
So in brief, a Community Edition is of high quality (same as the Main one), very well tested (exactly as the main one), released in exactly the same way as the Main Edition and the only real difference is that we can’t demand as much in terms of work, delays and schedule on Community Editions because their maintainers do not get compensated for it. It’s a best-effort kind of thing but only gets released when its quality is as high as expected.
Now when we look at a derivative distribution it’s a complete different story. We don’t communicate with the maintainer, we don’t test, and we’re not responsible for the release. Basically we have no control over what is done in a derivated distribution and we can’t guarantee its quality. For this reason it is extremely important to us that derivative distributions do not associate themselves with us by using our branding our confusing their users by telling them they’re a “Linux Mint Community Edition”.
We’ve had trouble by the past with two derivative distributions:
– Ultumix started as an independent project but for some reason they thought it would be a good idea to call themselves “Linux Mint Ultumix Edition”. Since we never agreed to that, and we never participated in the making of it, it obviously isn’t an edition, since it’s got nothing to do with Linux Mint, only the technical fact that it’s based on it.
– Maryan Linux started as the Linux Mint E17 Edition. Maty was appointed as its maintainer and it was agreed we’d have a Daryna E17 CE (Community Edition). The problem was that Maty never submitted any ISO to the team, no tests were ever run on this edition and at the same time he was communicating release dates to the public and planning to release it himself. If we can’t test an ISO and take control on its release strategy we can’t guarantee its quality and for that reason it can’t be called “Linux Mint”. The edition was discontinued and Maty rebranded it as a separate distribution called Maryan Linux.
Both Community Editions and derivative distributions are good for Linux Mint. Editions allow us to offer a wider range of desktops without much efforts, derivative distributions all us to see new ideas implemented based on the technology we develop and outside of our control. The important thing of course for anybody interested in making his/her own variation of Linux Mint is to know what he/she wants to achieve, not in term of technique, but in term of organization. Does the maintainer want to make an edition (ie. another Mint desktop) or does he/she want to start maintaining his own project (new organization, new way of working, independance from the Linux Mint project..etc).
We always welcome new editions/distributions, the important thing is to clearly distinguish between the two. I hope Ultumix will sort out their branding issues and that we’ll be able to commit more in to delivering and maintaining some important community editions maybe to move them back to official editions and give them the same level of priority as the Main edition gets once Linux Mint starts growing.