With all the drama and pathos that plays out each and every day here in the Linux blogosphere, the temptation to equate the stories of today with classic tales from the world of literature can sometimes be overwhelming.
Take the world of Linux desktops, for example. For years the users lived happily under the reign of GNOME 2; suddenly, Unity and GNOME 3 appeared on the horizon, and that simple world changed forever.
GNOME 2 was banished from the castle grounds, and loyal subjects across the land fell into a deep state of mourning. Unity and GNOME 3 earned followers of their own, to be sure, but the older generations lamented the loss of their longtime favorite.
A dark cloud hung over the land; bitterness and despair became the status quo.
An Announcement Is Made
Just when many desktop Linux users were about to give up hope, however — not to mention turn to Xfce — hope bloomed once again with the arrival of MATE, Cinnamon and SolusOS.
Then, just last week, countless users’ prayers were answered when it was announced that GNOME 2 was coming back.
The practical result? Standing room only down at the blogosphere’s rowdy Punchy Penguin Saloon.
“This will be great news to those who miss the classic user interface and who still have not found an alternative,” Robin Lim, a lawyer and blogger on Mobile Raptor, told Linux Girl over a fresh round of Tequila Tux cocktails.
As for Lim himself, however, “I will still be using GNOME 3,” he added. “It is my favorite desktop interface, but I pretty much get along with everything. I really don’t spend much time on the desktop, with 99 percent of my time spent looking at the interface of an app.”
It took the GNOME project “way too long, and they may have done irreparable harm to their future prospects,” Google+ blogger Kevin O’Brien opined. “But in one way it illustrates the strength of Free Software: if users do not like what you are doing, they can fork the project, and do it the way *they* want.
“When you saw distros dropping GNOME and picking up MATE and Cinnamon, you saw this in action,” O’Brien explained. “In the final analysis, it is the users who determine where the technology goes because they vote with their feet.”
‘It’s About Usability’
Google+ blogger Gonzalo Velasco C. had a similar take.
“Besides the aesthetic and modernizing point of view, the usability factor must be taken into account by developers,” he told Linux Girl. “Users want to keep the ‘computer-like’ control of our desktop; not everything is a touch-screen, smartphone piece of hardware!
“GNOME is a big boy and was the preferred DE for many experienced users, as well as classical GNU/Linux distributions’ default DE,” Gonzalo Velasco C. added. “So, there must be a compromise between the developers’ avant-garde ideas and what power users need and want to use.
“It’s not about inertia and fear of change, it’s about usability!” he concluded.
‘A Household Name’
“GNOME was never my favorite desktop,” Google + blogger Alessandro Ebersol began. “It was just ugly, I always preferred KDE.”
However, “when KDE made the change to version 4, I could not go on with it,” Ebersol added. “Of course, the early days of KDE 4 were terrible, but then, I moved on to other DE and life went smooth.”
GNOME, on the other hand, “was a household name,” he noted. “It worked. And desktops are not rocket science. GNOME devs tried to emulate what KDE devs had done, but it worked way better for KDE than for GNOME.
“Long story short: Don’t fix if ain’t broken,” Ebersol concluded. “GNOME devs took too much time to realize it.”
‘Too Little, Too Late?’
Is the latest move enough? Consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack wasn’t so sure.
“This is a halfhearted attempt at bringing the old desktop back if you are willing to go through the trouble, and it still seems that they don’t understand that people hate the new desktop,” Mack asserted.
Similarly, “I’ll believe it when I see it,” agreed Slashdot blogger hairyfeet. “From the way they phrased it, frankly, it sounds more like the GIMPed Win 8 ‘desktop mode’ than a full-fledged GNOME 2.”
Not only that, but “is it too little, too late?” hairyfeet wondered. “After all, there is MATE and Unity and LXDE — does GNOME have enough people that haven’t moved on yet to make this a big deal?”
‘They Have to Leave Us the Option’
Blogger Robert Pogson hasn’t used GNOME much for years “because it and KDE are both resource-hogs,” he told Linux Girl. “I have PCs to get my work done, not to make some GUI developers’ wet dreams.”
A useful user interface “does not have to be heavy and bloated, with a dozen services scurrying underneath to make it all happen,” Pogson explained. “I use Xfce 4, which runs like a rocket and does not have dreams of retraining me.”
In fact, “I have used the rectangular regions with widgets things for two decades,” he said. “I see no reason to change at this stage.”
Looking ahead, “GNOME and KDE should both realize no solution suits everyone,” Pogson concluded. “We don’t all drive Cadillacs, for instance. If either GUI’s developers want to take over the world, they have to leave us the option to go GNOME 2ish — it could be a choice made by the user on first execution or an easily found configuration option.”
‘I Like Having Choices’
Last but not least, “I love this, as I always like to have more options,” Google+ blogger Linux Rants opined.
“I actually really like the current GNOME 3 interface, and I’m a fan of Unity as well,” Linux Rants told Linux Girl. “Despite that, I still load up KDE or E sometimes.”
In general, “I like having choices, and Linux means that I don’t have to stick to just one,” he concluded. “We’re not talking Windows or OS X here. I just hope that this doesn’t stagnate development on UIs that don’t resemble the classic GNOME interface.”
For me, the damage is done. I’ll not return to Gnome any time soon. Mate works fine for me, and if Mate should ultimately fail, then I’m half confident that Enlightenment will be ready to roll. (It already works pretty well, it just needs to be finished up, and taken out of beta!)