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Kubuntu Lead Has Stepped Down, But It’s Not The End For Kubuntu

Kubuntu logoJonathan Riddell, the Kubuntu Release Manager, has announced he’s stepping down.

Major shock — not.

The former project leader¹ and long-time KDE developer confirmed the news in a blog post on the Kubuntu website, as well as in an e-mail sent to the Ubuntu Devel mailing list.

“Making Kubuntu over the last 10 years has been a fantastic journey,” he writes.

“Even (sic) since I first heard about a spaceman making a Linux distro using Debian but faster release cycles I’ve known this would be something important and wanted KDE to be part of it. Bringing together KDE and Ubuntu has created the best operating system we can and the best community to work on it.”

Air punching stuff, but it might make you ask why Jonathan stepping down.

That’s where things gets complicated, protracted and a bunch of other potentially inadequate pejoratives. In fact, the whole saga is a bit Jerry Springer, only less funny because real people with real feelings are involved.

‘It’s all a bit Jerry Springer, only less funny because real people with real feelings are involved’

Tensions between Riddell and the Ubuntu Community Council (in lieu of Canonical) have played out in public and in private…and in private that soon became public, and so on, for several months.

The crux of Jonathan’s contention centers (largely) over interpretations of Canonical’s IP and trademarks policies, the licensing requirements of compiled binaries made from GPL’d code, and the impact of that on the wider open-source community.

He’s also made other potentially litigious allegations that we’ve decided not to repeat here.

Riddell touches on these tensions in his announcements, noting that: “… open source software needs people to be able to take out what they’ve put in. Ubuntu’s licences and policies enforce this. However for the last three years Ubuntu’s main sponsor Canonical has had a policy contrary to this and after much effort to try to rectify this it’s clear that isn’t going to happen.”

“I find myself unable to continue helping a project that won’t obey its own community rules,” he says

Earlier this year the Ubuntu Community Council took the unprecedented step of requesting that Riddell step down as Kubuntu project leader. The Kubuntu Council declined the request, but Jonathan did, eventually, resign from the role and the Kubuntu council.

Today he’s moving on entirely, saying he finds himself: “…unable to continue helping a project that won’t obey its own community rules”.

As an active and passionate KDE developer Riddell is unlikely to retreat into the shadows. He, along with some existing Kubuntu developers, are rumoured to be working on taking Project Neon – an initiative created to allow Kubuntu developer to run the latest bleeding edge KDE stack easily – upstream as part of KDE. This will involve a migration from Launchpad to the KDE Bugzilla, KDE Git and new build servers – so he’ll be busy!

What Happens to Kubuntu?

As for what today’s announcement may mean for Kubuntu in the long-term…that’s unclear.

Riddell’s decision to depart isn’t, obviously, good news. As an enthusiastic and passionate champion for the power of KDE paired with Ubuntu, and as a proficient and well liked member of the Kubuntu community, the shoes he vacates are large and well worn.

But on the flip side there’s little reason as to why Kubuntu can’t move on and continue stronger than ever. It’s a community built around an open-source project, not the leadership of any one person.

So no matter how many headlines you’ll read in the coming days, this news does not mean the end of Kubuntu. 

¹ Jonathan never held the title of project leader but was, for all intents, considered one.