Before the advent of Live distributions, the default Fedora product was a DVD with many software choices available. By default, a user who did not choose to customize the packages installed would end up with a GNOME Desktop environment along with some other best-of-breed applications. Because the Fedora DVD originally branched off from the Red Hat Linux product, it inherited these choices.
Live images were created not just to provide a simple way for users to "try before they buy," but also as an offshoot of "stateless" project work. The default Live image became a subset of the DVD product, because of size constraints that existed at the time, and the desire to have a general purpose desktop productivity platform as the simplest expression of a Live image. Over time the number of Live images has expanded into Spins, because the tools for creating them are easy to master, and because we have contributors interested in creating environments that are still constrained in size but show off other platforms available within the Fedora repositories.
Why have a default offering?
The reason we have a default offering is because as a Project we need a single item we can hand out, offer, or promote for the general populace, which serves as the Project's "best foot forward" in terms of our mission of leading the advancement of FOSS. By definition we lead by showing off the most advanced software suitable for a general populace.
The Board decided on the concept of a default offering and assigned the Desktop Live image as a default, which essentially codified existing practice that this was the Project's "best foot forward," for several reasons:
- For best usability and stickiness, a general audience needs a call to action item. For the Fedora Project the initial call to action is a download, the gateway to getting involved for the vast majority of people.
- More than one default is confusing to people for whom the general purpose web pages (front page, get-fedora download page) are an entry point.
- A Live image is more sensible than DVD because a run-before-install environment better meets users' needs and expectations.
- Other operating systems do not offer this feature because they're assumed to be pre-installed. When the user resorts to a piece of media, it's either to restore proper function to a broken system, or as part of an upgrade to bigger storage.
- A Live image agrees with the goal of attracting people to switch to a new OS -- offering a test drive is natural and helpful to the user.
- The default offering should include a reasonable portion of new software innovations seen in feature listings.
- The default offering should be maintained and driven by a large group of people originating new code directly in the upstream communities.
Why this default offering?
The default offering contains a broad range of technologies that meet the needs of a baseline user, and which have large communities of contribution that include many Fedora participants:
- Free video drivers
- freedesktop.org plumbing
- GNOME Desktop Environment
- Other user applications
These technologies are all either "best of breed" for their respective areas, or feature a high concentration of contributors and participants from the Fedora Project. In some cases, the Fedora Project's main sponsor, Red Hat, employs participants to ensure that these technologies (and free software in general) continue to evolve and improve. Having the Fedora default offering feature these technologies increases Fedora's strategic value to our sponsor.
But not all these technologies are included for that reason. Compiz, Firefox, and other user applications are chosen to create a fully usable environment with features to attract a broad range of users. For this reason, changes in the default offering -- not just at the desktop environment level, but at all levels -- should be made for compelling reasons, such as greatly improving the user experience.
It is the Board's opinion that the Desktop Live image effectively meets the criteria for a default offering.
Why have DVD media?
We continue to offer a DVD form of media because it solves several different problems:
- It offers easy access to an expanded set of software for low-bandwidth recipients.
- The gap here may get smaller since the default offering is no longer constrained to a CD size.
- It offers broader component options for advanced users.
- In most cases, the gap can be mitigated by the user after installation, by removing or adding software as needed after installing the default Live image.
- Not everything can be included, so the DVD's content is also a compromise constrained by space.
- The DVD can provide additional rescue and alternate boot scenarios.
- The DVD provides a full Anaconda code testing path for participants.
- Refer to, for example, Seth Godin's "The Big Red Fez."