I don't think user-facing software is the critical part. It needs a group of developers who are intending to use it for serious, real-world applications. Those applications can be user-facing, server based, embedded, or whatever, but they have to be something people depend on. Having users who depend on it will give a committed developer base. Without that, it's just a hobbyist system that has people working on it because it's cool, and they'll be tempted to jump to something else that appears cooler.
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