I suppose I can’t just leave my last post standing there as-is. I’ll start by listing a bunch of things I consider facts about the GNOME project. I don’t want to talk about solutions here, I just want to list them, because I don’t think they are common knowledge. People certainly don’t seem to talk about them a lot.
core developers are leaving GNOME development.
GNOME is understaffed.
This is hard to explain in a short and concise way. For anecdotal numbers: GTK has 1 person working full-time on it (me). Glib doesn’t even have that. I think evolution is in a similar situation (a complete email client). We can also try Ohloh’s statistics for GNOME (they include 131 packages, including GStreamer and NetworkManager). You’ll see a sharp drop off of committers on the first page already which suggests around 20 full-time developers at most.
GNOME is a Red Hat project.
If you look at the Ohloh statistics again and ignore the 3 people working almost exclusively on GStreamer and the 2 working on translations, you get 10 Red Hat employees and 5 others. (The 2nd page looks like 6 Red Hat employees versus 8 others with 6 translators/documenters.) This gives the GNOME project essentially a bus factor of 1.
GNOME has no goals.
I first noticed this in 2005 when Jeff Waugh gave his 10×10 talk. Back then, the GNOME project had essentially achieved what it set out to do: a working Free desktop environment. Since then, nobody has managed to set new goals for the project. In fact, these days GNOME describes itself as a “community that makes great software”, which is as nondescript as you can get for software development.
The biggest problem with having no goals is that you can’t measure yourself. Nobody can say if GNOME 3 is better or worse than GNOME 2. There is no recognized metric anywhere. This also leads to frustration in lots of places.
GNOME is losing market- and mindshare.
I don’t want to point out Linus’ bashing, but a bunch of very pragmatic facts that all together lead to fewer GNOME users and developers:
- Distros are dropping GNOME for other environments instead of working with GNOME.
- Previous supporters of GNOME are scaling back their involvement or have already dropped GNOME completely.
- Most important desktop applications have not made the switch to GNOME 3. From talking to them, it’s not a priority for most of them.
- The claimed target users for GNOME are leaving desktop computers behind for types of devices GNOME doesn’t work on.