Saturday, 19 March 2011

Competition or cooperation: Gnome-Shell and Unity

The new Gnome-Shell has started to land and to take its final development steps. This landing has also raised some intensive discussions around Gnome - what is Gnome, whom are the competitors and what should get into Gnome.

From the major distros the Fedora camp have indicated themselves to utilize Gnome-Shell/Gnome3 with their upcoming Fedora 15 release, where as the Canonical/Ubuntu guys will be using their own homemade Unity Dekstop and Gnome3 applications. This division was initially fired already at October 2010 @Ubuntu Developer summit where Canonical stated that all the future releases would be based on Unity.

Currently ongoing discussions have been especially intensive around libappindicator - as it has been taken as _the_ item to discuss in various of different blogs [1]. Shortly the history of indicators have evolved from KNotificationItem to Canonicals StatusNotifier proposal and now to the rejection of libappindicator as part of Gnome 3.0 module set - "there is nothing in GNOME needing it". For Canonical this statement is quite clearly saying that Unity is not part of Gnome. Naturally this has raised some discussions.

This definitely becomes interesting when we are discussing about the future of Gnome. What we have here is project aiming for "interoperability and shared technology for X Window System desktops" and two most popular Linux distros differentiating themselves. What we are also discussing about is free software. Surely in both efforts it is just about that but Canonical copyright assignments contribution agreements are something that Gnome does not want to depend on (this in a scheme where libappindicator would be part of GTK+).

The two projects do have quite different directions, making them competing against each other rather than cooperating. I personally do agree with the statement that healthy competition is always welcomed. The danger is that too much competition can also ruin the possibilities to compete the outside world - competing with the closed source solutions whom are running fast. Getting some new innovation emerging from these Linux based desktops is something that we all would want to see. This would require some big time cooperation instead of competition.

* collaboration's demise
* Application Indicators: A Case of Canonical Upstream Involvement and its Problems
* Has GNOME rejected Canonical help?