TL;DR: Something like an “Apps for GNOME” website might exist pretty soon. This changes nothing about existing pages. You can have a look at the current state of the website. Feedback and contributions are more than welcome.
Currently, most apps in the GNOME ecosystem are represented by a wiki page or README at our GitLab instance. All the information in these wiki pages has to be updated manually in parallel to the other sources like the AppStream MetaInfo file, the screenshots, or the DOAP file. I was no longer motivated to do this work manually for my app and started looking for alternative solutions. I quickly wrote a small script that generates an app page. After showing the generated page around, several people proposed to provide such app pages in a centralized fashion for GNOME.
What app pages could provide
Having a standardized page for apps could provide a bunch of useful information to users and contributors. My main focus is less about technical information but more about how to get engaged, how to fill an issue or how to get in touch with the community around an app. Introducing the people that are involved in the app’s development could help to build up an emotional connection to the app and in the end maybe incentivize users to contribute their time or money to the project.
In contrast to the Flathub pages, a GNOME specific apps website could not only emphasize slightly different aspects of an app. Rather, a separate website would also allow us to provide a GNOME specific curated list of apps. This would make it easier for people to search for apps that are suitable for their desktops.
Apart from that, there are a bunch of apps that will not be available via Flathub for technical reasons (e.g. Settings, Terminal, Files) in the foreseeable future. If we could integrate them in these app pages as well they might profit from more visibility as a project.
One last thing that this project could maybe rectify is that neither our wiki nor the Flathub pages currently provide translated app information. In practice, this means, if you are searching the web for a GNOME app you probably only have a chance of reaching a somewhat “official” landing page for an app if you searching in English. As Shaun McCance has recently outlined in his GUADEC talk about documentation, online search is something that we should cover if possible. Notably, translations for AppStream MetaInfo are available in GNOME Software. However, currently, the data is hardly accessible anywhere else.
A sled dog makes an attempt
As it turns out, I’m not the first person with the idea to automatically generate pages for apps in GNOME. However, as far as I know, nobody has tried it yet. But so far, it does not look like an impossible feat. Meet “codename malamute.”
Malamute starts by collecting a list of all the core and GNOME Circle apps from their official lists. Next, it uses the pre-build metainfo file from Flathub to obtain the metadata, including translations, for every app. Those data are, for example, supplemented by the maintainers’ GitLab profile information. This data is fed into tera, a Jinja2-like template engine. Within less than one minute run time – and by passing over the rust compile time – we end up with about 150 MB of static page data.
I already received some early feedback on the project. A small number of real-world tests seem to suggest that the page in it’s current form could already be of use for GNOME users. For example by making them aware of the number of useful apps that suddenly appeared as part of GNOME Circle.
The purpose of this post is mainly to reach out for broader feedback. I don’t have any conflicts with existing infrastructure on my radar, but please let me know if I am overlooking something. Maintainers can still decide to keep their app wiki pages or to role individual pages in parallel to this project. They can be (and mostly already are) linked from the apps detail page.
A topic I personally feel very uncertain about is reusing personal data from GitLab or GitHub user profiles. In theory, all those data are public, but they are presented in a different context on app pages. It might even be legally required for people to opt-in to this feature. It would be much appreciated if someone could help me with this question.
There are a ton of technical details that still need to be implemented. The design team already indicated that they might have some words to say about my attempts at designing those pages 😏 Another issue is the quality of metadata. I think we should by no means underestimate the quality of the data that already exist! But, this is likely an area that – combined with a shiny new design for Software in GNOME 41 – might gain some new traction.
If you want to give feedback or get involved you can use the issue tracker, hit me up on Rocket.Chat or Matrix or ping me on Twitter. Big thanks to everyone who helped with this project so far, especially Alexandre, Tobias, Zander, and of course everyone I forgot to list here!
PS: To avoid further questions about the codename, the official name will probably change to something more generic in the future.