Happy Birthday


Article from Issue 240/2020

In case you didn't notice all the fanfare on the cover, it is my privilege to inform you that you are holding Issue 240 of this magazine, and 240 divided by 12 is exactly 20, which means that we are officially 20 years old.

Dear Reader,

In case you didn't notice all the fanfare on the cover, it is my privilege to inform you that you are holding Issue 240 of this magazine, and 240 divided by 12 is exactly 20, which means that we are officially 20 years old. I have long since stopped celebrating my own birthdays, but the magazine's birthday always seems like something to celebrate.

I started with Issue 48 and, just for kicks, I went back to look at Issue 48 and see what I was writing about on my first comment page. Without irony, I will tell you that one of the topics I mentioned in my first opinion column was how much I don't like opinion columns. It is interesting to consider that I have written 192 more since that day – a number that is difficult to comprehend, although I can safely say I have never run out of topics.

A scan of my first page 3 reveals that some of the things we talked about back then are still important to us now, and some of the things that seemed most pressing have quite fallen out of the headlines. For instance, I mentioned KDE Kontact and PHP, which we still write about. On the opposite end of this contemporary relevance spectrum was SCO, the company that tried to balance its books by claiming it owned the rights to Linux. It was quite scary at the time for Linux, because SCO seemed to have deep pockets and lots of important lawyers, but the open source community held fast. Eventually SCO's efforts fizzled, and they went bankrupt.

Beyond the relics and the relevant was one topic that falls somewhere between and is, thus, an interesting time capsule. That topic was Mozilla XUL. We know that Mozilla is still relevant, because I wrote about them last month. Unfortunately, last month I reported on their layoffs and restructuring, but they had many years of glory between then and now. XUL is still around, although it doesn't get that much attention anymore – even from Mozilla – and it isn't as important since the arrival of HTML5. At the time, it seemed like XUL was undoubtedly cool, but no one was really sure what was going to happen with it.

For the Mozilla project, 2004 was an exciting year. The Mozilla Foundation had launched a year earlier as an independent nonprofit and had received the rights to the old Netscape browser code. Many commentators had already written them off – sure, they still developed the old Mozilla Application Suite, but they seemed like one of those massive codebases that drifted around the open source ocean with no clear sense of purpose.

Then, only three months after Issue 48 appeared in print, Mozilla announced the first release of Firefox – a whole new browser built around existing Mozilla technologies like XUL and the Gecko engine. Firefox was a big hit – not just with Linux folks but with Windows users, many of whom quickly agreed it was better than the clunky Internet Explorer. Firefox market share rose quickly, eventually surpassing IE and reigning for a time as king of the hill until Chrome arrived in 2008. Mozilla Firefox was a big morale boost to the FOSS community and a shot across the bow to conventional software companies, proving that open source software could compete directly, not just on Linux, but on commercial desktop systems.

My first column was written at that curious time when the Mozilla Foundation had already launched, and development tools like XUL were already out there in the world, but before Mozilla started its epic comeback that began with Firefox. The lesson is that things change fast, and you never know what is just around the corner. History emerges from the cloud of maybes and what-ifs that surrounds us in the present.

Magazines come and go all the time in the global publishing industry, and 20 years is actually quite a run. We haven't been around for as long as The Observer or National Geographic, but we have certainly outlived many of our peers, especially in the chaotic high-tech field. I'm proud that we're still going after 20 years and still prouder that we are tooled up and ready for another 20.

Our well-oiled and finely tuned publishing engine is only part of the equation, though, so keep watching the commercial spaces near you. Support your local bookstore, but keep in mind that some retailers are reducing their shelf space, so if you don't see us, Linux Magazine is always available to order online:

Subscribe: https://bit.ly/Get-Linux-Magazine

Single Issue: http://>https://bit.ly/Linux-Newsstand

Joe Casad, Editor in Chief

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