Gnome 2 infinity and beyond [was Re: Tango and 2.16]

There is something I've been meaning to bring up for a few weeks now and
I'll take Tango as an excuse to finally do it.

Gnome has come a long way since Gnome 2.0 and continues to improve all the
time.  Changes such as Tango, Cairo, DBUS, Gstreamer, Project Ridley and
many other initiatives are slowing but surely making Gnome 2.x better very
very different, to the point where it could be almost unrecognisable from
Gnome 2.0.

I hope you will forgive the word play in my subject line but in many ways
it seems like Gnome 2.x could continue on quite happily with releases
every six months or so until infinity (okay not literally but practically)
with no sign of when Gnome 3.0 might ever happen.

At the moment the best answer to the question of Gnome 3.0 seems to be
"maybe later".  Gnome 3.0 (Topaz) not happen if there is no plan*.  The
way I see it there are two major problems to be solved which I would
summarise as Developer expectations and user expecations.

Developers have made a commitment to keep ABI stability during the Gnome
2.x cycle.  This is a good thing.  This commitment could be extended if
there was a Gnome 3.0 and to make myself clearer I repeat the point that
Gnome 3.0 does not need to mean breakage or some wildly new radical idea.
Development is evolutionary not revolutionary.  [1]

User expectations shot wildly through the roof when the first murmer of
3.0 were mentioned.  The work of Project Topaz brilliantly (in my humble
opinion) helped manage those expecations.  New ideas and energy were
directed into Gnome 2.x where possible and other ideas were left to cool.
Which brings us to the present where Gnome 2.16 will be the next release
and 3.0 is not planned yet.  Managing expecations and keeping them
realistic (but optomistic) will always be an issue.

I understand the majority** of developers are not particularly interested
by version numbers but I believe enough people do care about it that it is
worth discussing what can be done and when it might be appropriate to go
to the next major version number.  It is mostly marketing, but given a
little thought it could be made meaningful and need not be just a
superficial gesture to those who care too much about labelling, it could
be significant and techincally justifiable.

I return to my point about Gnome being quite different from what it was
and all the change that have happened.  A developer (an Independant
Software Vendor (ISV) for example) could create an acceptable gnome 2.x
application but using older APIs that are supported but not exactly the
ideally recommended choices.  Gnome 3.0 could be taken as an oportunity to
clarify best practice and appeal to ISVs which has been previously
mentioned as something people were interested in.  Gnome 3.0 could be
taken as a way to celebrate all the progress and encourage people to take
another look.

Maybe it will be a year or two before Gnome 3.0 happens but I hope
developers will reconsider Gnome 3.0 and see it as an opportunity and
begin to make plans or clarify when it might be appropriate to bump the
major version number in recognition of how far Gnome has come and how much
as been achieved.


Alan Horkan

Open Clip Art

Alan's Diary

* Plan in the vaguest possible sense, the release team and community
leaders taking a decision is still a plan even if done at short notice.
** I assume a majority but I may be mistaken, perhaps there value of
marketing is understood even though most would rather focus on the real

[1] Havoc Pennington said it better already

I drafted the first version of this message before I saw the comments on
planet gnome but it seems I'm not the only one thinking about 3.0:

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