Why Linux Users Hate Red Hat

Linux & Open Source Center Editor Steven Vaughan-Nichols knows that many Linux fans hate Red Hat. His message to them: Get over it.

the company most hated by Linux fans is quite possibly … no, not Microsoft, but Red Hat. I often hear longtime Linux enthusiasts say things like "Red Hat has betrayed Linux" and "Red Hat wants to be the next Microsoft."

If you look closely, its not hard to see why so much ire is tossed on Red Hat. Late last year, Red Hats CEO, Matthew Szulik, said that for home users today, Windows is probably "the right product line." Thats sure to win the hearts and minds of Linux fans right there.

Then, Red Hat decided to kill off its low-end Linux distribution: Red Hat Linux. You would have thought from all the screaming in some Linux circles that Red Hat was proposing dog food be made from kittens. Some Linux fans even said Red Hat is on its way to becoming a proprietary software company.

Red Hats corporate enemies and, in one case, a purported partner—Sun—are jumping on this last point It isnt true, of course. Red Hat is still an open-source company.

What is true, though, is that Red Hat mishandled the affair. Red Hat 9 had a life span of just over a year with its April 2003 release date and its end of support on April 30, 2004. Business customers, who usually expect to get at least three years of work out of an operating system, were as mad as wet hens to find their support disappearing from underneath them. Indeed, theres been enough outrage that several integrators including at least one mid-major Linux vendor—Progeny—are making a business of supporting Red Hat 9 customers.

The release of Fedora, Red Hats free and cutting-edge Linux distribution, doesnt appear to have been enough for some of these users.

Of course, what Red Hat really wanted was to have its commercial customers switch to Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). Some Linux fans were outraged because they felt they were being forced to upgrade.

Rant, rave, rant, rave … theres a lot of hate out there aimed at Red Hat.

But you know what? Theres nothing new about this. As early as 1999, I was writing stories about people who hated Red Hat for the same general reasons, which boil down to the fact that Red Hat is getting too big for its breeches. Heck, the ill-fated UnitedLinux consortium was in many ways an attempt by other Linux powers to take Red Hat down a peg.

Now, this isnt to say that Red Hat hasnt made mistakes. Both the timing and delivery of its message concerning the end of life for Red Hat 9 were awful. It placed many of its customers in the awkward position of having to upgrade before they were ready. It left others, including yours truly, completely bamboozled as to whether Red Hat would even continue to have a desktop distribution. As it happens, Red Hat is offering a Linux desktop, but there never should have been any doubt.

Next page: Why Red Hats move was the right one.