Shamelessly, I posted my previous post, FreeBSD on a Thinkpad Extreme G2 on /r/bsd Reddit.

The result, some 24 hours later, is 100 visitors. Out of that 100, 57 are using a desktop. Out of that 57, only 2 used FreeBSD—2%. No other BSDs are recorded.

People who are into BSD don’t use BSD. This seems to be a reason for lacking hardware support. If no one uses FreeBSD, no one will encounter those problems. If no one encounters them, no one will fix them.

Update 2023-04-14

The article, got quite the round around the internets, gathering some interests from Reddit, Hacker News, Twitter, Discover BSD or Vermaden. With all that interest come quite a few questions and comments. The following is an attempt to summarize it all.

People who use FreeBSD don’t care about FreeBSD hardware

This makes perfect sense. If your FreeBSD installation on X220 works flawlessly, you may not care about anything more modern. But there will come a time when you will need to replace the hardware.

This comment, however, came as a proof that the sample from my blog is invalid. This may be the case, but I don’t buy it. All traffic on the aforementioned post came from Reddit’s BSD forum. It’s the one place where you could expect that people using BSD would hang. It may also be that it’s quite a random sample - it’s small, and people who have yet to become into BSD but are BSD-curious opened my blog post. I am in no place to debunk or confirm this. I, however, know that many people presenting at FreeBSD conferences do it using Macs or Windows. So even if the numbers are dubious, the overall feeling remains sorrowful.

To add to the above: there are also stats for the commented opinion piece. Two hundred forty-four people opened it from /r/freebsd. Of that, 24 people were using FreeBSD, and just 2 were using OpenBSD.

Your statistics may be invalid as people mask their browser agent.

This also may be the case. Why, then, is the referer not spoofed? It’s a much more invasive data point than the underlying OS. But I’m a simple Firefox user, never used Librewolf.

FreeBSD is a server OS

Yeah, this is the sentiment I’ve read before jumping aboard. My problem with this idea is that each and every FOSS OS is a value in itself. The current poster boy, Linux, also had huge problems getting to work on various machines. In my opinion, it’s limiting OS to a single use case is a completely valid point - your use case for FreeBSD is on a server, and this is where it currently shines (or not, depending on your experience). Some folks despise allocating any FreeBSD dev time to the desktop as there are many server issues.

But again, I don’t see it this way. Limiting FreeBSD to the server only is short-lighted. Unless you are already powering your servers with BSD, there will always be a question, “Why not Linux. It’s what everyone else is doing”. And Linux got into its current position not by being a great server machine but rather by attracting the interest of some very skillful people. And it did it by allowing more and more people to free themselves from Windows on their machines.

I see FreeBSD problems as having two primary causes: the Unix wars of the past and limited resources now. If FreeBSD were easier to use on a wide range of end-user machines (which tend to be laptops), the easier it would for people to want to develop it. BSDs are now a far second choice. Why would someone invest time? They may fall in love with the OS, but unless they try it, it will never happen.

I like our small userbase

I’m as elitist as the other person. DWM stated that

“This keeps its userbase small and elitist. No novices asking stupid questions.”

I can’t find this quote anymore, but the sentiment seems similar. However, there are two aspects here.

FreeBSD comes with no graphical interface by default. This makes it much closer to minimalist distros than Ubuntu. This still allows anyone to feel like a hacker.

The second, however, is that some problems are unsolvable by end-user. Writing drivers is EXTREMELY difficult, and, as I’ve recently learned (thanks, Jeff!), this is especially true when it comes to WiFi drivers, as there is no open implementation. This means that any progress requires a trial-and-error process based on reverse engineering. No one without deep knowledge of low-level programming will be able to make any progress, and even those few will need people with real hardware for testing.

Hardware support is years behind Linux

Yes, and this is what I was referring to.

Why would anyone use BSD on a desktop?

It’s a great system, just needs a lot of work on hardware support :-)

Your post is worthless, and only the comments are interesting

It’s more than I anticipated. That post was small and written without any deeper research. But the discussion around it makes me believe that I hit something real.