I decided to use google trends to see how Haiku has being doing for popularity over time. Looking over five years, the system seems to be on a flat line - or even gentle glide path of declining interest - albeit rising again in recent months. This result seems counter-intuitive to those of us inside the “scene” when we consider the accelerating pace of progress:
Blue = Haiku, Yellow = Serenity, Red = Genode
Rather than looking at Haiku in isolation I have chosen to compare it with others in the market. Here we compare it with two of its “frenemies”:
Serenity. I have chosen this because it represents another OS inspired by 1990s “state of the art”. Unlike Haiku, Serenity is satisfied to be nostalgic project rather than alternative to modern OS. As for funding and organisation, its key developers are sponsored by Patreon and GitHub donations.
Genode: A modern capability based operating system. Like Haiku, it does have a company founded to promote its development and apparently full time developers but gives the impression of being very small scale.
Blue = Haiku, Yellow = Serenity, Red = Genode, Green = Fuchsia
For this shorter period I have chosen to add in Fuchsia: google’s replacement to Android and technically similar to genode. This is already used in some HomeHub.
Note how popular Haiku is relative to the other platforms. I have obviously not included mainstream UNIX like BSD or GNU/Linux whose popularity I presumed would reduce Haiku to just a flat line along the bottom of the graph. Haiku is roughly twice as popular as Serenity and four times as popular as genode. Fuchsia, with all of Google’s resources behind its development and their hype, only enjoys five times Haiku’s searches.
Considering these operating systems with their developmental ups and downs, technological milestones, and relative movements compared to each other, try first thought is to wonder why there seems to be so little movement in the hit rankings, either in the relative popularity of rival OSs or at an absolute level.
So why is everything just a flatline in the longterm? Are these systems actually enjoying more popularity as they mature but this is masked by users simply abandoning google for other search engines or coming across it outside of the broader internet, such as through social media? I like to think that you search for Haiku whilst researching it, and afterwards may be a user or member of the community. If Google is a gatekeeper, the rate of people coming through the gate may be constant but the number of people inside might be increasing linearly.
A rather unhappier reason may just be consumer apathy. The rise of hardware that is locked into one specific OS may just be frustrating the ability of people to switch operating systems even on otherwise redundant machines.
Anyway, what do others think? Is the apparent flatline of web search interest for Haiku and other esoteric OS a cause for concern?