This story was originally published on Sept. 22, 2011, and is brought to you today as part of our Best of ECT News series.
Now that Linux has reached the ripe old age of 20, it seems fair to say the software is officially “mature.” Were it a human, after all, it would likely be allowed to drive by now, and maybe even to drink, too.
Just as we humans tend to engage in a little self-analysis and image-updating when we reach major milestones like these — updating ourselves to reflect who we have become, as it were — so too, it may be time for Linux to do the same.
Such, indeed, was essentially the point behind a recent open poll at Tux Radar. Specifically, “Does Tux help or hinder Linux?” was the question at hand.
Something Fiercer, Perhaps?
“On the one hand, Tux’s cheerful face and relaxed posture could be the perfect way to express what we love about Linux,” the TuxRadar team explained. “It’s not too corporate, it’s fun, and it’s happy to welcome anyone into its fold.
“But on the other hand, it could be argued that such a toy-like mascot stops big business from taking the community seriously,” they explained. “Would a more conventional logo make us look more professional? How about a different, more powerful sort of animal?”
For anyone who cares about Linux, it’s hard not to have an opinion about this one, as the comments of some 70 readers made patently clear.
Or Something Less Cartoonish?
“Tux is perfect: neat, bold, compact,” opined Martin Greaney in the TuxRadar comments, for example. “It stands out well.”
On the other hand: “While I recognize the penguin as a good mascot, it can be taken as something that is not serious, especially when it comes to the professional image,” noted Patrick G Horneker.
Similarly: “The noble penguin can be made into a great logo, yes — but its standard Tux representation is just childish and cartoon-y,” wrote Mike K.
Then again: “Compared to the paperclip, that silly dog and the spandex MS butterfly (don’t even google that) I think tux is respectable enough,” chimed in PaulS.
Is the lovable Tux still right for Linux, or is it time for a change? Linux Girl took to the blogosphere’s infamous Punchy Penguin Saloon to find out.
Don’t Change a Thing
“Tux is the perfect logo — he’s cute, memorable and there is no way you can take it the wrong way,” consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack told LinuxInsider.
Similarly, “I like Tux almost as much as Tux likes herring,” agreed Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza. “He’s cute and nonthreatening and yet he looks little to nothing like any other logos. On the rare occasion that he appears on the box for a piece of hardware, he’s easy to pick out.”
And again: “Tux is a great mascot,” concurred blogger Robert Pogson. “Children and adults around the world love Tux.
“I am actually growing to resemble Tux, even though I eat bread instead of herring,” Pogson added. “I spend a lot of time sitting, too … It just would not be right to have some athletic gazelle as a mascot for the greatest kernel in the world.”
Stamp His Image Everywhere
Slashdot blogger hairyfeet agreed, but he also had a suggestion.
Tux is “cute, he’s sassy, he makes a great little mascot,” hairyfeet told LinuxInsider.
“But just think how much nicer Tux would be if you could find him on boxes?” hairyfeet added. “If you could tell your aunt, ‘just look for Tux the penguin’ and know she would have ZERO problems shopping? Wouldn’t that be nice?”
Roberto Lim, a lawyer and blogger on Mobile Raptor, wasn’t so sure.
“I like penguins,” Lim began. “I use a Tux image as an avatar in one forum. Unfortunately, as a mascot or logo for Linux, Tux is a failure.”
It’s not clear many people associate Tux with Linux, Lim explained.
“The Apple logo is self explanatory in more ways than one; Microsoft’s Window logo has departed a bit from its historical look, but it did used to look like a stained glass Window, and Windows is the name of the operating system.
“The relation of Tux to Linux,” on the other hand, “is questionable,” he asserted.
Where Is It?
Perhaps even worse is that few distros even use Tux in their own branding, Lim pointed out.
“Stars, hats, lizards, swirls, symbols of universal friendship and instant messenger icons … but no one seems to use the penguin,” Lim noted. “I do not know which Linux distro actually uses the penguin. What is the point of having a mascot that no one seems to use?”
At this point, however, “coming up with a new logo or mascot is pointless,” Lim opined. “Software for Linux operating systems are not even compatible with all Linux operating systems. What it the point of having a unified icon to represent diverse and incompatible distributions?
“The Green Droid does represent software compatibility, to a fair degree at least,” he added.
One Step Further …
It might even be better to drop the Linux name altogether, Lim ventured.
“A distro might have better luck if it stops using the Linux name, and leave people open-minded about this fancy new operating system with the really intuitive OS,” he suggested.
Not everyone saw it that way, however.
Penguins Are People-Friendly
“The penguin is fine — people actually associate the penguin with linux,” asserted Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by “Tom” on the site.
“The competition? How about an apple with a bite out of it. I wonder, did someone have a run-in of Biblical proportions with the BSD demon at some point in the past?” she mused. “‘Hey, what’s wrong wit youse, lady? Eat the apple, already!’ It would explain Darwin’s roots.”
Then “there’s a flag of a window that has morphed into 4 rectangles,” she added.
“Somehow, a stuffed penguin sitting on a desk looks friendlier than either of the other two,” Hudson said.
“Just as long as we don’t graft an ugly Gnu goat head on Tux,” she concluded. “After all, we don’t call it ‘Symantec/Windows,’ or for those into bad car analogies, ‘Firestone/Ford’ or ‘Goodyear/GM.’ And while we’re at it, the Gnu logo could stand to lose the ‘soul patch.'”