This is how KDE as a project and brand is currently perceived in the IT market. This information is gleaned from a lot of anecdotal data, so please take everything with a grain of salt.
Despite being quite mature in many aspects, KDE's frameworks and libraries do not seem to be used or, indeed, known much outside of the KDE community. We have had several (admittedly anecdotal) experiences in which organisations and companies that we thought would've known better, were completely ignorant of what KDE had to offer.
- The Plasma Desktop has a low penetration, but is generally regarded as a high quality product. Very high ratio of developers to users.
- Many applications are quite well known (Krita, Kdenlive), but users do not associate them with KDE (see Brand later). Otherwise, while excellent dwell in total obscurity.
- Frameworks are surprisingly underused outside the KDE community. Even many FLOSS projects are ignorant of what we do.
According to many accounts, the community is not what it used to be. This is true about activism in the FLOSS world in general: people grow older, find time-absorbing jobs, have families and have less time to give away. Also FLOSS is not perceived as an exciting, pioneering, revolutionary thing like it used to be, so a younger generation is not that interested.
- The KDE community is shrinking. According to testimonies of old-timers and numbers of attendees at events, there is a decline of active community members from a peak that was reached in 2013. Despite a peak in 2010, and sharp drop off immediately after, there has not been radical shrinkage, but there has been a slow gradual one.
- The community is largely homogeneous with regard to gender, race, class and geographical extraction, being made up mainly by white male middle class European engineers
- There is a large ratio of developers to users. This comes about in part from the philosophy of "scratch your own itch" which is pervasive in FLOSS development: Developers are often the consumers of their own development. In KDE, however, this is a bit more diluted and can attributed to the fact that KDE technologies are not that well-known outside our community.
- The KDE brand is recognised within the FLOSS community, even though many of the products are not. That said, KDE is still being used as a synonym of "Plasma desktop" by most FLOSS community members not associated with KDE.
- Anecdotal (but not unique) evidence collected at external conferences seems to indicate that the KDE brand is not known outside the FLOSS community.
- Some popular apps are not associated with our brand, despite being fostered within our community.
- Domestic usage is probably lower than 1%: if we take the figures that say that users of the Linux desktop make up little more than 2% of the market, and taking into account that by most measures, Gnome is the most pervasive of the Linux desktops, it stands to reason that KDE's Plasma desktop is used by less than 1% of the desktop users worldwide.
- Professional usages is probably also very low:"Professional" as in use in offices, hospitals, schools, public administrations, etc. If we have learnt anything from things like Wannacry and other virus crisis is that the most public institutions and big companies use proprietary tools that are also outdated.
- Progress in getting KDE tech on devices: That said, we have made progress in getting KDE software (especially the Plasma) preinstalled onto devices. The KDE Slimbook I and II, the Pinebook (although not as a default) and our ongoing work to get Plasma Mobile onto the Librem 5 and other devices, are examples of the headway we are making.
Long Term Goals
The main aim in this section is to increase project sustainability be adding more developers and acquiring better and more stable financing. One way of doing this would be to increase the usage of the KDE frameworks and software in general in companies.
- Contribute to help increase by 5 the number of software companies that use KDE frameworks as the basis for their UI-based applications over the next 5 years. Among these companies there must be at least one multinational global player, like Samsung, Lenovo, LG, etc. The ultimate goal is to create a sustainable businesses ecosystem in which it makes sense for companies to develop, sell and maintain KDE-based software or develop software fo their own products, both for users and for other businesses. We can do this by (1) visiting events and engaging attending representatives of target companies, (2) pushing news about developments of KDE frameworks on B2B social media networks and to tech-business press; and (3) increasing the userbase and the use of KDE software in non-techie organisations, which will lead to and increase in interest on behalf of third party companies to ramp up the use of our frameworks to develop their own software.
- Establish a working durable and stable relationships with Linux/BSD/etc. distribution maintainers
For KDE community
- Help increase diversity: Over the next 5 years help promote diversity and collaborate in attracting contributors in order to get close to having the same proportion of men, women, and other genders as there are in the real world. Likewise promote KDE as a community all over the world to contribute to recruiting contributors so as to achieve a balanced representation of the largest number of ethnicities and nationalities as possible among contributors. At the moment, the community is composed mainly by white male Europeans. The goal is to add 5 percentile of minority contributors to the community every year over the next 5 years, without decreasing the number of contributors KDE already has. We can do this by carrying out actions that target under-represented genders, ethnicities and people with disabilities, so that we can tap undiscovered talent, receive input and help from a larger slice of the population, and better adapt KDE's software to the needs of wider selection of the population. Take page from Wikimedia's playbook on how to encourage under-represented groups to participate in KDE's community. Implement and enforce a strict CoC both for the community and each event against discrimination and harassment. Also, move main event (Akademy) away from Europe and encourage sprints and events in other places, like Asia, South America and Africa, as well as activities devise activities which will appeal to minorities.
- Contribute to achieving a sustained growth of the number contributors: To stop the community from shrinking further and, if possible, reverse that trend, we can again use the effort to push for diversity. While activism of FLOSS in the Europe and North America has decreased, in developing countries FLOSS is very much a nascent movement, akin to what it was like in Europe and the US in the early 2000s. This is a demographic KDE can cater to and, in the process, bring new blood with new perspectives into the community. This would be a mid-to-long term solution. GOAL: Help increase by 25% the number of active contributors and volunteers every year over the next 5 years.
- Help attract existing FLOSS software projects to KDE and incorporate their members into our community. We would want to increase the number of projects by 5 every year over the next 5 year. This would help KDE increase its portfolio and app catalogue, making our platform more attractive to users and contributors (= a larger variety of projects to chose from). The community would grow with members of already active projects, thus increasing our reach with every project added. One would expect it would make KDE more attractive to a wider variety of sponsors. The projects that joined us would be able to increase number of contributors (developers, artists, translators) working on their product, increasing the bus factor. They would be able to take advantage of KDE's infrastructure and services (like Promo), while at the same time increasing the probability of obtaining sponsorship and funding. Finally they would be working with like-minded colleagues. We will approach the project leaders and to ensure we can accommodate the project, we will work with the onboarding project members so we are ready to accept mature projects into the fold.
- Contribute to acquiring more sponsors: A bigger community means more expenses. We would need to guarantee that KDE remains operational by, among other things attracting stable sponsorships. Also, by increasing the number of sponsors, KDE does not have a a two big dependence on any one sponsor in particular, which helps the community maintain its independence. We would need to determine what reasonable increment of sponsors we want to achieve. Apart from working with companies as mentioned in the *For Technology* section above, we can also jump start interest in sponsoring KDE projects by attending events which management from corporations also attend. We want to deliver talks to CTOs and have booths to showcase KDE's solutions. In part, this strategy is already being implemented. GOAL: Increase at least by 25% every year the amount contributed by sponsors to the community over the next 5 years.
For KDE's brand
We want to increase brand awareness across the board.
- KDE should become a household name. Tech-literate users should be able to identify KDE applications, Plasma, Plasma Mobile, and so on the same way the can differentiate Android, iOS, Windows and macOS. Companies developing software with GUIs should consider KDE technologies, like Kirigami for their products. It is unlikely that KDE will become recognised on its software merits alone. This is where standard advertising, ad stunts, and things beyond the solely technological will have to come into play. GOAL: Make KDE, Plasma and some of KDE's more popular applications recognisable for at least 5% of the population over the next 5 years.
- We also want to become recognised as a provider of quality software. We would need to make sure QA is carried out on all projects associated with our brand and they abide by KDE's core vision. Carry out surveys every year to monitor progress. GOAL: Improve consumers' and businesses' awareness and positive perception of KDE products. Each yearly survey must show significant improvements (?) in the perception of KDE's products over the one carried out the year before. We also aim to achieve larger proportion of positive reviews and articles on bloggers, vloggers and podcasters sites, as well as in professional publications.
- We will also want to reinforce KDE's brand through popular applications. We will want to ask application project leaders to push the KDE brand front and centre to increase brand awareness in users. We are in the first stages of discussing this at T9122. GOAL: All KDE's standalone applications (i.e. applications that can be run outside of Plasma, even on different platforms, such as Windows, Android, or macOS) have their own website and include the "Made by KDE" branding badge into their sites and on splash screens.
Increase number of end-users by
- Helping take over niches, like education, science & research, art, etc. GOAL: Contribute to turning KDE applications into the most used applications within at least two niches within the next 5 years. For example, making GCompris the most used application for by primary teachers for education, or Krita the most used painting program for art students. [More examples?]
- Helping get manufacturers preinstall KDE software on devices, something that is already happening in a limited fashion. We want to establish ties with manufacturers and help them and support them to get Plasma, Plasma Mobile, and the rest of KDE's ecosystem working on their devices. An even longer term aim would be to have major device manufacturers (HP, Asus, Dell, Acer, LG, Samsung...) ship devices with Plasma and KDE applications pre-installed, be them laptops, tablets, phones or smart appliances (TVs, fridges, etc.). GOAL: Add at least two new hardware manufacturers a year to the list of hardware vendors consistently pre-installing KDE-based technologies onto their devices.
- Helping increase the presence of KDE software in companies by marketing at events and directly to businesses that could benefit from adopting KDE software and need technical corporate backing. GOAL: Increase the number of companies using KDE environments, applications and technologies by two every year over the next five years.
- Contributing to the increment of the number of domestic users, which maybe achieved by striking deals with hardware providers to supply them with OEM versions of KDE-based distributions. Related to getting KDE-based software pre-installed on devices mentioned above. GOAL: Help increase the number of desktop end users by 2% over the next 5 years.
Please post suggestions, ideas for additional goals, or improvements to the ones described above in the comments.