The current leader of the Debian GNU/Linux project, Stefano Zacchiroli (pictured below, left), posed the question with a little more force - Why the bloody hell should you care about Debian? - in a talk at the 12th Australian national Linux conference today.
Zacchiroli outlined the uniqueness of Debian - it was a non-commercial distribution that was able to compete with other commercial distros, it was built collaboratively by experts and was the first major distribution to be developed exclusively in the spirit of the GNU project.
Apart from this, Debian had two unique identifiers - its social contract (adopted in 1997) and its constitution (adopted in 1998), Zacchiroli said.
"The social contract ensures that the software is 100 percent free, that we give back every change to the upstream projects, that we don't hide problems and that our priorities are our users and free software," he said.
The constitution enables the project to be a do-ocracy where consensus and writing code count; if matters cannot be resolved at that level, then the democratic process is used. "The leader of the project and secretary provide some kind of framework for these processes to operate," he added.
Debian was started in August 1993 and 17 years later it had around 30,000 packages, had done 11 releases, had 900 developers and 120 maintainers plus thousands of other contributors. "We have 12 ports and two non-Linux ports," Zacchiroli said. "And there are something like 120 derivatives based on Debian."