You don’t have to throw a stick very far* to hit an article on the internet about how the Gnome project is dead. Or dying. Or “staring into the abyss.” Even my old podcast, the Linux Action Show, has recently declared Gnome to be “on life support.”
That is totally and completely wrong, and everyone who has taken that stance should have their Internet merit badge taken away for two key reasons.
MORE FROM THIS AUTHOR: I am not a normal person. I run on Linux.
The first reason is that Gnome, along with the Gnome Shell, is doing great. No, I take that back. They aren’t doing great. They are doing completely and utterly awesome. They’ve made some amazing progress over the last few years and have built a highly functional environment that huge numbers of users enjoy every single day.
But that isn’t the primary reason the Gnome project is a success. No, the primary reason is this:
The Gnome project has built something that is not only functional and elegant…but unique. They have created a Desktop Environment that both lives by its own rules and, yet, is extraordinarily customizable. They took risks while, at the same time, worked to empower users to tailor their own environments to meet their individual needs.
That, right there, is success. That is the “Linux way.”
Has their market share taken a hit lately? Undoubtedly! Ubuntu’s dropping of Gnome in favor of Unity is a huge hit to the total install base all by itself. But market share is not the end-all-be-all of the Linux world.
Let’s be honest for a moment. If market share percentage was the only important thing to you, would you be using Linux? Would you even be reading these words right now?
It seems to me that many people are confusing “this isn’t the exact desktop environment I want to use right now” with “this desktop environment is dead.”
Do I use Gnome Shell on my main machine? Nope. I have Gnome Shell currently only running in one virtual machine, which I use for testing purposes. On my main machine I use xmonad, which is a Desktop Environment most people haven’t even heard of. Xmonad is written in Haskell, a programming language most people haven’t heard of either.
Are xmonad and Haskell failures? Are they dead? No. Because they are unique. They are customizable. They are alive and kicking (and awesome).
Just like Gnome. And just like Linux.
*[Which, if you are anything like me, is not very far at all. My twig tossing abilities are about on par with my 14 year old, mostly blind, dachshund.]