Related link: http://refspecs.freestandards.org/lsb.shtml
The latest version of the LSB has been released, and already there are some news sites discussing what it brings to the table with major companies giving their “we love standards” quote.
Personally, I applaud the efforts of the LSB, and even though I don’t always agree with some decisions the group makes, I still think it’s better on the whole for everyone to try to stick to the standards when possible.
I say all this to say that even if (and I haven’t pored through LSB 2.0 yet) the LSB has some great new ideas in it, my fear is that it still won’t really matter or be relevant for much of its audience because of many of the same problems that plague other standards.
For a standard to have teeth, people need to not only design their systems based on the standard, but also tout their compliance with the standard. We have seen this problem with HTML. Although HTML compliance is much better now than it has been, for a long time sites all across the Internet were littered with the “Designed for IE” or “Designed for Netscape” gifs.
For the life of the LSB much of the same thing has gone on. Certainly most major distributions now conform to the LSB and to a degree make a point to advertise the fact (especially to us in the Linux community). However, for the LSB to really have teeth, companies who develop their own software for Linux need to be touting LSB compliance, yet many don’t. Why? It’s not the LSB’s fault. I lay most of the blame at the feet of two companies who really should know better–Redhat and SUSE.
Linux use, particularly in the server market, has really taken off in the past few years with Redhat and SUSE leading the pack with many Linux migration stories and lucrative contracts with large businesses. Both distributions do “get it” in terms of the benefits of adopting the LSB and both do comply with the standards, yet when a 3rd party wants to develop software for Linux, and Redhat or SUSE collaborates with them what do you get? A “compatible with Redhat X.Y” or “compatible with SUSE version X” label.
Why do you see this and not “compatible with LSB X.Y?” Branding. Both companies would love to be synonymous with the word “Linux” and for some time, at least in the United States, Redhat achieved that goal in the minds of the corporate market.
This spring I attended a talk with a Novell representative at Penguicon 2.0 and asked whether Novell’s ownership of SUSE now meant that we would see them push for 3rd parties to adopt the LSB as a standard instead of SUSE. The answer was PR-speak for “no” and his tone reminded me of the way a Sun rep might answer when asked if Java will be Open Sourced.
I understand both of these companies need to make money to survive, but their branding not only causes annoyances (such as 3rd party software binding itself to particular kernel versions in particular distributions) but in effect makes the LSB carry little weight.
There seems to be no reason to think this practice is going to change any time soon, and since 3rd parties just don’t have the resources to support every distribution and aren’t being told to conform to the LSB instead of a particular distribution, the LSB will continue to be a great thing for companies to point to when the talk turns to Linux standards while continuing to carry little real weight where it matters.