Earlier this year Lionel Driscot’s “The Last GUADEC” was slashdotted, redditted, and everthing else-itted that can happen to a viral blog post in the tech community. It’s a provocative piece. It also sparked for me the impetus to write this entry, which I’ve been mulling over for a few months.
My one nit with Driscot’s post are the questions he ends with, his call to action:
How can we evolve? Can we move the GNOME spirit into a web browser? How can we make use of our history and bring freedom to users instead of becoming just another web dev consultancy company?
These are not the questions I would have asked. I do not believe the answers to these questions will yield appreciable fruit.
Here’s a portion of Emmanuele Bassi’s response to Driscot’s post (which I can no longer access, unfortunately):
GNOME is about building a whole operating system, and a whole ecosystem of apps, libraries, and tools, for people to create applications to consume and to create content.
This hovers closer to the questions I would have asked.
GNOME’s stated goal of “a complete free software solution for everyone” seems to me to be four-fifths met. What GNOME offers is (1) free, (2) software, (3) a solution, and (4) for everyone. I question the word complete.
I say this specifically as an application developer, not as someone maintaining a library or writing development tools. Yorba isn’t even a cross-platform developer. We target UNIX, and, frankly, we’re not proactive about any flavor of UNIX other than Linux. Our requirements for a development platform aren’t particularly stiff. Yet even slicing away Windows and Mac support, I still think GNOME is far from complete.
Here are the questions I would ask in place of Driscot’s:
- How does the GNOME platform fit into a world of big and small interconnected devices accessing a variety of Internet services?
- How is GNOME enticing developers to build upon — not build, build upon — that platform?
If I was a developer building Mac, iOS, Windows, or Android applications, I’d be able to answer those questions. I honestly can’t answer those questions as GNOME application developer, at least not in full.
Thinking about those questions got me to thinking about another: What’s missing from the GNOME platform? I’ll take that up in my next post.