Andreas Proschofsky made an interview with Jono Bacon that is really worth reading.

Some comments on this from my side:

Actually that’s all upstream work, it’s just that Ayatana is the upstream

Well, it is not. If you customize an upstream project (GNOME) you cannot call your result upstream anymore, it is downstream. And Jono doesn’t mention that Canonical requires copyright-assignment for all of the parts of Ayatana.

Update: My original wording was: “Technically upstream means not done by a distribution (downstream)” which seems to have led to some confusion so I try to clarify that.

Historically a lot of the work has been done in upstream GNOME but that’s changing

Prove? I don’t think it’s changing even if Canonical probably wants to change that.

So sure it’s a delicate situation but it’s the same with Red Hat building GNOME Shell which is a completely different user experience to GNOME.

As I think that Jono knows better I wonder why he is oversimplifying things here. While GNOME Shell is pushed by Red Hat everybody was invited to contribute and there is also a community of people not working for Red Hat that is heavily contributing to the Shell. GNOME Shell is not a Red Hat project.

Part of it is the fact that the design team that we’ve got working on Ubuntu has a different set of ideas. So besides the mobile space – where we are building a new User Experience with Unity – the focus for Ubuntu is GNOME with these additions.

I think everybody in GNOME would love to work together with the Canonical design team (and luckily it is happening sometimes). If they would present different ideas how they see the future of GNOME (Shell) there would be really nice discussion IMHO.


I really don’t mean to say that Canonical is evil because that would be unfair. They support GNOME in various ways with sponsership, patches, bug-reports and ideas.

As they are a company aiming on making money I can kind of understand their strategy on trying to be better, more innovative and different from other Linux distributions. This is their legal goal with Project Ayatana and it is one of the reasons they do not care too much about pushing things upstream.

But I think they make a mistake if they think that they can replace thousands of volunteers working on upstream projects with developers they have to pay in-house. In short term this may lead to more innovation but in the long term they will suffer in quality and quantity.  You might remember the story with Novell’s main menu which was also innovative but didn’t ever end up being widely used.

Anyway, it is far more important to look into the future than into the past. This will also mean that people should push upstream work and GNOME Shell on the Ubuntu Developer Summit and I am sure there are many people there who care a lot about GNOME and Ubuntu.

3 Responses to ““We have no plans to fork GNOME””

  1. bratsche Says:

    I don’t typically like to get involved in this sort of debate, but your very first point needs some comment I think.

    Jono: “Actually that’s all upstream work, it’s just that Ayatana is the upstream”

    You: “Well, it is not. Technically upstream means not done by a distribution (downstream).”

    This statement just doesn’t make any sense to me. Why are distribution companies suddenly not allowed to develop their own upstream projects? Do you not consider Mono to be an upstream project? It’s developed by Novell, who also has their own distribution. (I’m not trying to compare the Ayatana stuff to Mono in any terms other than their ability to be called “upstream” modules).

    The rest of your post I have no interest in commenting one way or another on.

    • jhs Says:

      I didn’t mean that. But if you are extending an upstream project like Ubuntu does (and I am perfectly ok with it in some way) I see this as something different as starting an upstream project. Ubuntu has upstream projects, too, like launchpad or Ubuntu One.

      • Johan Says:

        In some cases I think it’s completely ok to consider your changes upstream even if those changes extend another piece of software. One example would be if Gnome rejects new components and patches, in which case it would be completely ok for Canonical to consider themselves upstream for the rejected software. I’m not a coder, just a fan, but that seems to make sense to me at least.

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