...as I look at the whole Debian situation, it seems to me that Ubuntu, with its leading the way from X Window to Wayland for Linux's foundation graphics and its new take, Unity, on the Linux desktop is now the ground-breaking Linux distribution that Debian once was. At the same time, Ubuntu is continuing to expand the Linux audience, while Debian continues to be a system that only hard-core Debian Linux fans will use.
Debian is the raw material that is used to create Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and dozens of other Linux distributions that look more modern and easier to use. However, the reason that Ubuntu and the rest are able to ship fancified Linux distros that are easier to use is because they're able to start with Debian. If the Debian Project ceased tomorrow, it would be an enormous — possibly fatal — blow to its derivatives.