Monday, September 04, 2006

Is hurting Linux?

Exercise: try doing a google search for "Linux" and check out the first website that comes out in the results page. It is It is not the official Linux website (there is no such a thing, save maybe, but in practice, millions of people believe it is, and for most it represents the very first face of Linux they will have the pleasure to meet.

Is it a nice, modern, exciting page fostering Linux adoption?

Hardly so. Even worse, far too many energies seem to be dedicated to raising money, which would not be not a negative fact per se, if the money bit did not look like the main purpose of the website:

  • Banner on the top
  • Banner on the left
  • Banner on the right
  • Banner on the bottom
  • ContentLinks in the middle (with all those lovely pop-ups)
  • Another banner on the left
  • Bookstore
  • Hardware manufacturers
  • Vendors
  • Subscriptions
  • Donations
  • Advertise with us
The bottom banner deserves a special mention. It contains a table of "sponsored links". Guess who is sponsoring Linux:
  • River Belle Casino
  • Lucky Nugget Casino
  • Jackpot City Casino
  • Gaming Club Casino
  • weight loss pills
  • online casino
  • online poker
  • Best online casino
  • Health and Fitness Forum
  • #1 Best Web Hosting Messenger
  • Linux Gifts for all occasions!
  • Buy Vitamin Supplements
  • Online bingo UK
  • Online Casinos
  • Online Slots
  • Online casino
  • Online Backgammon: Linux
  • Online Casinos
  • Casino Software
  • Online Casino Offers
Screenshot as of 4-Sep-06:

Take your pick. All in the main page of the main Linux website. And remember that we are talking about a website that is #1 in the google search for "Linux", something they are well aware of and monetizing upon:

Advertising: Media Kit

Linux Online, the primary online resource for the Linux Operating System since 1994, has earned the respect of the Linux community and the media. Our site is featured regularly on television and radio, and in newspaper and magazine stories about the success and popularity of Linux. The major search engines list Linux Online as the first destination when searching for the term "Linux". In addition, both Netscape Communicator and Internet Explorer refer their users to Linux Online when "Linux" is entered in the location field.

The Obvious Way

Linux Online provides an ideal starting point for current and future user's journey into the Linux Operating System. Network administrators, IT managers, and the average user come to Linux Online to find out about the operating system as well as to learn about the latest products and services available for use with this innovative and well-proven OS. With over one million unique visitors per month, Linux Online will give your advertising campaign a much wider audience than any other Linux website available today. Simply put, there is no better opportunity for your company to promote its Linux product or service than Linux Online!

Very Desirable Audience

Linux Online can bring to your company or organization a slice of the most sought after marketing and advertising audience in the industry. Based on a recent survey, we found that the typical Linux Online visitor is male, 31 years old, earns $42,000 US per year, has a post-secondary degree and uses Linux on his home PC. 73% of our Linux Online visitors are responsible for purchasing computer equipment, software, and services for PCs for end-use or for their company. With over 58% of those buyer's responsible for a department or entire company, we've got your market's attention! Additionally, 29% put Linux to use in their work environment.


Linux Online is a popular gathering place for the Linux community where current and potential Linux users can find the latest news and information about Linux and Open Source. You will reap the benefits of our experience with launching successful advertising campaigns by our commitment to making your campaign as effective as possible. Among the benefits you receive by advertising with Linux Online:
  • Your advertisements appear on a site designed to connect consumers with valuable Linux resources, products, services, and applications.
  • Exposure to over one million unique visitors and five million total hits per month to make sure your product or service is seen.
  • Priority listing in the vendors area of Linux Online. Vendors are normally sorted by country and then alphabetically. As an advertiser on Linux Online, you will be placed at the top of your respective country/area ahead of the alphabetical list.
  • Free impressions on the Linux Online ad directory. Directly below banner advertisements is a link to a page showing all the current ads on the site at
  • ...

The official objective is to promote Linux, but is it the only objective?

"You will reap the benefits of our experience with launching successful advertising campaigns by our commitment to making your campaign as effective as possible".

And all this is needed to support the website?

Well apparently it is not enough. Donations are also welcome: "Linux Online is a community supported web site. We need the help of visitors, like you, to pay the day to day costs of operating this site."

Really? Did anybody even bother to look for donated hosting instead of donated money? I have seen far lesser Linux websites hosted for free, would it be so problematic to find a real sponsor for a change?

Moreover, it does not look to me that much has been invested back into the website in the past 12 years. The page looks and feels like a site straight out of the early 90's which is what it basically is, even the information is a bit dated and sometimes even confusing, hardly something to encourage users to try Linux.

How is the image of Linux going to be affected by having casinos and pills advertised on its main page? If an enquiring soul stumbles upon this website when investigating whether to use Linux on his desktop, is the 90's revival feast going to convince him? How many users have already been turned off?

So is helping Linux or not?


Ryan said...

I hope you've sent this to the webmaster.

Ago said...

This is the email I sent:

Dear sirs,

I have major complaints about the website, while I appreciate the initial efforts and the original contribution, I do not think that the website as it is today is helping Linux image. Quite the opposite. I expressed my thoughts in my blog . I was harsh, but I am not a political person. I honestly hope that the resulting debate will help improve the website and make it state of the art, as it deserves. is the flag, and the flag has to fly high. The people who maintain bear a great responsibility.

Kind regards

Ago said...

I would like to kill the flamewar before it even starts and try to be constructive instead. There are some points I think we can all agree with: is a de-facto flag for Linux, it should be a state of the art website, appealing, informative and fostering Linux adoption. I am not a web designer myself, but I am sure that there are plenty of people that would be more than happy to contribute, and even host the website. Some suggestions:

1) Look for donated hosting
2) Look for help from other web developers, it is now a big project and it can use some more hands
3) Get rid of all advertising except (maybe) bookstore and vendors.
4) Split the website into a desktop section and an enterprise section, do not mix the two
5) Make the website look good. Very good.
6) Enhance the hardware list, to become an easy to read, comprehensive and reliable hardware compatibility list.
7) Enhance the software list, to be comparable to freshmeat
8) Update the content and make it as clear and as accessible as possible, several people claim they were confused
9) Add some "spread-linux" initiative, see spread-firefox.
10) Make it clear what different distributions can offer, add screencasts and screenshots, polls, distrowatch type of rankings, reviews, anything to simplify the choice to new users

Ago said... webmaster replied with a kind letter saying that he welcomes suggestions but he is not going to respond to questions about how his website is financed.

Ago said...

There is a poll on UbuntuForums

Anonymous said...

this'll be a fine flame war on slashdot then when it hits the main page...

Anonymous said...

You can try for something better.

Anonymous said... "Incorrect Site"? WTF? Webmaster has no knowledge of Apache mod_rewrite? Oh boy...

Linux Fan since 1997.

Michael said...

Do you have any idea of how much bandwidth a typical site like this would chow down let alone how much that bandwidth would cost? Do you understand how little advertising makes? Do you understand these people who DEDICATE themselves need to live as well? is full of GREAT reviews, information on not only distrubutions but it features MASSIVE amounts of information on programs available for Linux. Just because Linux is open source doesn't mean people can't profit from it there is no shame in what there doing and I personally think it's a good well layed out site. Sounds like your a little bit jealous. Honestly what do you think your doing for the image of linux? We don't need to force people to use linux, we don't need to spread the word, people who would like to use linux will and I honestly don't think the site is going to stop people using it after all you don't need to get a chubby for it to be a good site.

Anonymous said...

lol, its obvious that the previous comment is by the actual webmaster

Anonymous said...

I do not think that the idea behind this post is to "hurt" Linux. I think, there are some legitimate points expressed. Naturally, Linux is all about freedom, dedication, openness, etc. but don't you think that we are living in the times of marketing?

I personally a huge Linux fan - I am using it since Slackware 2.6 and I am eternally grateful for all the man-hours, patience, persistence, and perfectionism of all the developers but, I also believe that we are living in almost historical times: all those Vista delays are on our side.

So, as those newcomers turn their heads towards our noble Linux movement, I think they should find an appropriate presentation of the product :)

Certainly just a matter of opinion.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't .org stand for non-profit organization?

Anonymous said...

The guy registered the domain in 1994 and since then has been cashing in. He hardly puts up any content there and throws large numbers of ads and then asks for "donations"


Anonymous said...

who really cares ?????

board said...

I agree is the not the best looking site in the world...

The other point is that there is a website (comes up as #2 in Google) which does have a pretty good look-and-feel.

I am not sure which is better content-wise?

Matt said...

First impressions count for a hell of a lot and if someone new to Linux lands on this site to start with, it might lead them to think that Linux is as unusable as this.

It needs an overhaul.

Anonymous said...

Michael McLagan owns and is milking it for all that it is worth and more. He is a profiteer and no friend of the Linux community. For example a while back he tried to start a "Linux Standard Association" with the primary purpose of him making a lot of money. Needless to say the community did not approve of his ways and sent him packing.

He continues to horde, and other Linux related domains for the sole purpose of making money.

You can Google him for more information. Or you can start here:

Michael McLagan in my eyes is a con artist.

anomaly said...


Terinea said...

Both sites look too technical for a newbie. If we want Linux to become more mainstream we need web site that has a fresh and simple look. Although looks a lot better than it would still would turn a none technical oriented user away!

I can't understand why the Linux companies don't organise an official independent site.

Sam Johnston said...

Let's just hope the Linux Mark Institute haven't issued them an irrevocable license to use the 'Linux' trademark. This, IMO, is exactly the sort of malarky they should be protecting the community from.

Albero said...

@ Michael

Hosting is cheap. Ad revenue from a site with this exposure (especially with the vast quantity of ads stuffed on is very high.

The owner is making a *lot* of money from this and doing a disservice to the Linux community by associating the 'official' (any newbie who does a search is going to think the first result with this domain name *is* official) with 'weight loss pills', 'casino software', etc. Then you ask for donations? FFS!

I applaud anyone who makes money from open source, but this website is not the open source spirit. Shame.

I also agree the design is time travel back to the 90s and is off putting for people discovering Linux.

Michael - do the right thing with this website, there are plenty of other places you can spam!

Sam Johnston said...

Incidentally, you can share your concerns with the Linux Mark Institute here.

Anonymous said...

start a campaign and get all linux web masters to link to a prefered site with the text as 'get linux' or something... If you get thousands of people to do this on their sites then googles positioning may change...

jimmygoon said...

I would try to create a layout/theme/etc (I know some PHP) and help with that if necessary... I would also be able to link in many places to a new/different website.

I think if we included a distro chooser, a "feature comparison" of distos, an explanation of "distros" and "linux" in general it could be successful.

It should have an easy way for a complete n00b to find a starting place and begin learning... that is a big problem that people have.... just that initial jump.

contact if you want more ideas or if you have ideas for the presentation:

Anonymous said...

I personally think it's a good well layed out site

Well, yes. As for 1994 it is quite modern and nice looking. For a good lay-ed out Linux sites visit or

Not as much information as on but not as much ads either and certainly more up-to date.

Welcome to the 21st century!

Anonymous said...

Thank the Lord for ad blockers

Florian said...

Linus Torvalds is the trademark holder of "Linux"...

Need say anything more?

If he wants to he can shut down anytime and put the management of the site in the hands of people who know what to do.

digihome said...

I agree with the comment:

start a campaign and get all linux web masters to link to a prefered site with the text as 'get linux' or something...

A site becomes number 1 in a search engine because of a few factors: lots of other sites are linking to it, it's considered a trusted site by the engine and it's optimizied to be searched by the engine. ( has a pagerank of 8 out of 10, so it's considered a very trusted site).

It isn't too hard to take advantage of these requirements and set up a new or current site to supplant on top of the search engine results.

Another option is to get Linux vendors that do advertise on to pressure it to improve its design.

jldugger said...

Two ways about this: you might argue that fills a much needed gap. Distros commonly have their own websites, but they generally focus on serving their current user base. Ie. security alerts, newsletters, etc. And if it's commercial, convinving you that it's totally worth 200 dollars. serves people who might not yet know redhat from suse from debian, and provides the sort of information that these people might need. I can't imagine every new user reading and thinking "fantastic!"

The other option is to put a link to on your website associating "Linux" with I don't think this is a wise idea, unless you think distros are harming the community by dividing users from upstream. A simple counter argument is that the install HOWTO was last updated over 4 years ago. Or if you don't think either one is appropriate, it's time to put up your own, better website, and promote it to people. If it's better than for people who google "linux" then I'd imagine it will rise to the top.

Anonymous said...

you all need to shut the fuck up. the people who own the trademark to linux have the only ability to do anything about this website, and not you stupid whiney idiots.

this fellow thought ahead and nabbed the domain CASE CLOSED

Anonymous said...

yeah, well google ranks pages according to links. SO STOP LINKING IT!!!!

Michael said...

Are you all jealous, does it matter if he is profiting? Do we REALLY want linux mainstream? If tards can't tell advertising from content maybe we should let them use windows? Should we spiff up bash so it's all 2.0 and clicks and stuff? Why don't we just make linux windows. You are all FOOLS! Let him make his money, people aren't going to associate linux with those ad's because to be honest most people won't even notice them. And besides they fill space nicely. If you people want to go into this world and not make any money go for it, but don't get jealous when someone better then you registered a domain when you were 5. Honestly get over it move on, who really goes to the first link on google anyway ?

Ago said...

I have exchanged some emails with's webmaster. I am adding relevant bits of our conversations on a separate blog.

Is hurting Linux? Part 2

Anonymous said...

Linux is an open source operating system many developers contribute it. So i cannot say that is hurting Linux coz that's a linux himself. is an organization of the linux fanatic in the web. in that way they cannot contribute and share their brilliant ideas.
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Anonymous said...

i mean is an organization of the linux fanatic person in the web. In such a way they can contribute and share their brilliant ideas to others.

Anonymous said...

it is UGLY and full of ADS google should change the results to nuke that crappy website.

Kmilo said...

Florian: I report it to the linux mark institute as an organization abusive using the Linux mark as part of a trademark without a sublicense.

Robert said...

For all of the reasons cited above, I agree that is a poor representation of the Linux community. But if were the first site most would-be users were directed to, most of them would turn away. It simply offers no front-facing content that appeals to potential end users. At least offers news and commentary, rambling and apocryphal as it may be, right on its front page.

miggols99 said...

I think it does push people away from Linux. It almost did it to me! When I was sick of Windows I looked for an alternative and found I downloaded some obscure Linux distro recommended from there and it gave me a kernel panic. Great. If it wasn't for my determination to find something I would have just given up. I think is a much much better website to introduce Linux to newcomers. Or comes pretty high from searching "linux".