The Masses Don’t Exist

Some food for thought: If Linux/open source is so great why hasn’t it reached the mass market?

It’s an interesting question, especially for someone like myself who wants the open source/software libre movement to succeed both socially and economically. This question should interest even people who don’t really care about software or programming. Because if the FOSS community and companies could demonstrate that doing business in an ethical manner, and even show that ethical business can do perform better than “ethically neutral” business; this would have a huge impact on society.

However the term mass market is actually confusing. The mass market does not actually exist. In business, you don’t actually sell for the “masses”, but for a wide aggregated market of various consumers. A word processor (like Microsoft Word or OpenOffice or KOffice) works well for teachers, students, writers, office workers, secretaries, et cetra. But each of these kinds of individuals is actually a narrow (vertical in bizspeak) market. The word processor as a product just spans such a wide market, because its similar functions work a vast number of these vertical markets. Would you call a tool like a screwdriver or hammer as a mass market utility tool? Probably not.

So where does the so-called “mass market” exist? Only in the minds of individuals. The masses are a derogatory term used for a group of people whose lack of judgement makes them a prime target for exploitation by unscrupulous individuals. Even the wisest of people, act without reasonings things through. Some of us do so more than others. But humans are not herd animals and we should not be treated that way.

Unfortunately some people, organizations and companies want the mass market to exist. The mass media wants it for profit and power. Tyrants want it for profit and power. Seeing a pattern here? Nothing good for the majority of the human race can come of this kind of thinking. These organizations and individuals simply want to exploit the most vulnerable. It’s a good to see a tyrant brought down by the so-called “masses”. And it’s a good when we see the mass media, the mass publishers, and other mass market companies to suffer when their “mass market” leaves them and punishes them economically.

The truth is everyone a unique individual with unique talents, a unique background and unique needs. When you view persons as individuals and not as members of some “group”, then the masses simply don’t exist. Modern societies, law, technology and business theory are all based on the concept of individualism. And those who refuse to treat people, be they citizens, clients or end users with individual human dignity should be and will be punished for their folly.

Getting back to the commercial adoption of open source and Linux. Since the masses don’t exist, no single effort of the open source community is going to replace all the world’s computers operating systems with Linux and a free desktop. Rather Linux as a platform needs to suit the needs of the end users or clients. The business opportunities around open source and Linux are myriad. The real issue for open source business is to come up with a sane business model.

There will be no “Year of the Linux Desktop”. For some it already has happened. For some it still has not yet come. And for others Linux and open source will never work. Wide adoption of Linux will only occur if it meets the needs for a wide variety of individuals.