Compiz is Cool €“ and Why That Matters

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One of the most vexed questions within the open source world is when, if ever, GNU/Linux will take off on the desktop. Strangely, this isn't really about capabilities: as someone who has Ubuntu running on both of his main systems, I can attest to the fact that GNU/Linux is not just usable, it's a downright pleasure to use. In fact, I constantly marvel at how transparent open source has become: most of the time I'm simply not aware that I'm using it – it just works.

This raises the interesting question: so what's missing? What more does open source need to do in order to capture the attention of the general user? I think the answer can be found on this YouTube video. As the aptly-name Digital Tipping Point comments:

This video is a digital tipping point for several reasons. First, it is shows that Linux is now competing with market leader Microsoft's best products head-to-head on features. Second, this video is a digital tipping point simply because it has been viewed 3,285,631 times as of the time of this writing.

I can only concur with both points. The video is a powerful demonstration of just how much more spectacular the open source Compiz window manager is than anything that the supposedly breathtaking Vista interface can offer. That's pretty amazing – indeed, I doubt that many people would even believe it, which is why the video is invaluable.

And the fact that over three million people have seen it is also an indication of how effective something like this can be. As I wrote a couple of days ago, I think the open source community has been rather slow to take advantage of YouTube and its ilk: it's a great way of showing just how good this stuff is, or of introducing people from the free software world.

The net effect of this video – and, with luck, of others like it – is that more and more people are going to wake up to just how far free software has come in the last few years. I think many will see for themselves just how damn impressive things like Compiz are, especially when combined with something as easy to use as Ubuntu. And once that happensGNU/Linux will finally experience a surge in uptake – not so much from “average” users, but from the people who want to be cool. And once open source is perceived as cool, conquest of the desktop moves one big step closer.