The free software community has been rocked by recent comments made by Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth.

‘At least we know now who belongs to the Open Source Tea Party’

In a blog post announcing the codename of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, the multi-millionaire space tourist describes opponents of Ubuntu’s new display server ‘Mir’ as “The Open Source Tea Party”.

These “outraged individuals” are, he argues, attacking the project “on purely political grounds”, explaining:

“When a project says “we will not accept a patch to enable support for Mir” they are saying you should not have the option. When that’s typically a project which goes to great lengths to give its users every option, again, I suggest there is a political motive.”

His accusations haven’t gone over well in the wider free software community.


In one of the more level-headed responses to the remarks, prominent KDE developer Aaron Seigo has invited Mark to join a live, public debate on “the merits of Mir,  Wayland and their implications vis-à-vis Free software .”

A public airing would, Seigo feels, help show that the arguments against Mir are technically, as opposed to politically, motivated.

Ubuntu Community Manager Jono Bacon, in response to Seigo’s offer, has described the fallout from Shuttleworth’s comments “yet another pointless Open Source bickering match”, suggesting that parties on both sides of the argument should “stop biting at each other’s ankles about their respective projects.” 



Tensions between Mir proponents and those who see Wayland as the afforded successor to X have been building ever since Canonical announced plans to roll with their own solution earlier this year.

The decision came as a surprise to many as, in 2010, Mark Shuttleworth had been explicit about the need to work with Wayland developers rather than against them. He wrote at the time:

“We evaluated the cost of building a new display manager, informed by the lessons learned in Wayland. We came to the conclusion that any such effort would only create a hard split in the world which wasn’t worth the cost of having done it. There are issues with Wayland, but they seem to be solvable, we’d rather be part of solving them than chasing a better alternative.”

This sudden u-turn was not helped by Canonical allegedly making ‘inaccurate and erroneous assumptions’ about Wayland in initial statements explaining their decision to not use it. Canonical later retracted and amended their claims.

The grievances felt by parties on both sides of the divide show no signs of abating.

Shuttleworth has also risked raising further ire by describing systemd – a modern replacement for the ‘init’ daemon – as “invasive” and “hardly justified”.

Canonical’s own init replacement, Upstart, is most notably used in Ubuntu and Ubuntu-based derivatives, as well as in Chrome OS. Systemd, created some four years after upstart, is used by default in a growing number of Linux distributions, including Arch, Fedora, Mageia, and openSUSE.

While the grievances felt by parties on both sides of the divide show no signs of abating, the technologies they surround continue to progress.

Mir, which includes a compatibility layer for running legacy ‘xserver’ applications and input devices, was held back from shipping as default in Ubuntu 13.10 due to ‘technical difficulties’, though recent benchmarks are showing only negligible performance hits compared to the traditional X server.

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