Open sourcing genealogy for Linux first? Bad move

Genealogy that relies on Linux users is never going to reach its full potential.

I was super-interested to hear about GRAMPS, an open-source genealogy program. I'm big into genealogy and, as I've argued before, I believe genealogy to be perfectly suited to open source.

But then I read this about GRAMPS, and lost hope:

GRAMPS is available for Linux, Windows, OSX, BSD, and Solaris, but the Linux versions are generally the most up-to-date.

In other words, GRAMPS has no chance of succeeding as a mainstream open-source project because it is skimping on the primary genealogy market: Windows.

Much of the world's genealogy is done by the older generation, a generation that isn't likely to have Linux running on their home desktop. While my grandma can run Linux , she and her crowd simply aren't going to be the ones to find and install GRAMPS.

Yes, Linux users can enjoy genealogy, too, and need not be using the same Personal Ancestry File that much of the genealogy world uses. But that's not the point.

The point is that the world would be better off having a common, open platform upon which Windows, Linux, and Mac users were both building and doing research. By privileging the least likely platform for mainstream users (i.e., those that do most of the genealogy), GRAMPS is locking itself out of its best chance to build a system that suits their needs. Much as I dislike Windows, it should be the first platform that GRAMPS supports, not Linux.

Developers will go where the users are. Genealogy users are not on Linux.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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