I don’t even remember when Canonical opted to branch away from GNOME and make their own desktop environment (Unity) but I do remember that it was quite the controversial decision. So many people were invested in GNOME on Ubuntu and in my honest opinion, without Ubuntu I’m certain that GNOME wouldn’t be what it is today.
Well, yesterday, Mark Shuttleworth announced that the next version of Ubuntu to be released will ship with GNOME and not Unity 8, surprising the likes of many. It seems almost as if Mark just decided to bite the bullet in this case just as Linus did back when announcing the Linux kernel 3.0-rc1. This time, however, there’s a good logic behind this shift in focus.
Mark goes on in his post to recognize the disdain that users have had for Unity. He says that their, “efforts were seen fragmentation not innovation,” and I can see where he’s coming from.
Unity was so closely tied to Ubuntu that to port it over to other distributions such as Arch or Fedora was more pain than it would be worth having. I know this because when I tried to use Unity with any distro other than Ubuntu I would experience crashes galore. When you compare this to other DE’s, you can hardly say that it would be the same adventure. For example, I’m using Cinnamon from Linux Mint, an Ubuntu offshoot, and I only have the odd memory leak due to certain applications being a little mismatched with the Cinnamon default APIs.
This experience, coupled along with the lack of desire to work with other distros to get their DE ported over, lead people to acquire a disdain for Unity. Canonical was pushing against the tide and essentially creating a proprietary DE without closing the source.
But what does this shift back to GNOME mean for the community?
As we all know, Canonical is a force to be reckoned with. They have lots of developers and a large financial backing for Ubuntu. Bringing this back to the GNOME environment will help fix a lot of the bugs that have been glaring for quite a while and will help shape GNOME into a more polished and finished product. Those icons might get a nice buffing, the UI might become a little more HiDPI-friendly and maybe we can finally see some of the more common extensions for GNOME being implemented and installed by default. Who knows, maybe that media hotkey bug will get fixed too!