Fallback mode is going away - what now ?

In the discussion over fallback mode at the Boston, we've talked about
GNOME users who use fallback mode because they are used to certain
elements and features of the GNOME 2 UX, such as task bars,
minimization, etc. GNOME 3 has brought new patterns to replace these,
such as overview and search. And while we certainly hope that many
users will find the new ways comfortable and refreshing after a short
learning phase, we should not fault people who prefer the old way.
After all, these features were a selling point of GNOME 2 for ten

So, what to do ? Thankfully, we have a pretty awesome extension
mechanism in gnome-shell (extensions.gnome.org), and there are a ton
of extensions out there which allow users to tweak gnome-shell in all
kinds of ways. This also includes extensions which bring back many of
the aforementioned 'classic' UX elements. The downsides of extensions
are that (a) there is no guarantee that they will work with a new
shell release - you often have to wait for your favourite extension to
be ported and (b) there's so many of them, which often do very similar
things - choice is always hard.

As part of the planning for the DropOrFixFallbackMode feature[1],
we've decided that we will compile a list of supported gnome-shell
extensions. This will be a small list, focused on just bringing back
some central 'classic' UX elements: classic alt tab, task bar, min/max
buttons, main menu. To ensure that these extensions keep working, we
will release them as a tarball, just like any other module. Giovanni
already added an --enable-extensions=classic-mode configure option to
the gnome-shell-extensions repository, which we will use for this

We haven't made a final decision yet on how to let users turn on this
'classic mode' - it may be a switch in gnome-tweak-tool or something

Some questions that I expect will be asked:

Q: Why not just make gnome-shell itself more tweakable ?
A: We still believe that there should be a single, well-defined UX for
GNOME 3, and extensions provide a great mechanism to allow tweaks
without giving up on this vision. That being said, there are examples
like the a11y menu[2] or search[3], where the shell will become more
configurable in the future.

Q: Why not cinnamon ?
A: Cinnamon is a complete fork of mutter/gnome-shell/nautilus - ie a
completely separate desktop shell. Our aim with dropping fallback mode
is to reduce the number of desktop shells we ship, not replace one by
another. We've had a friendly discussion with clem about the reasons
why they went from a set of extensions to an outright fork, and we
don't think they apply in our situation.

Q: Why isn't it enough to just have these 'classic mode' extensions on
extensions.gnome.org ?
A: We want to support these, ie make sure that they are available and
work at the same time as the next major GNOME release. The most
straightforward way to do that is to make them part of our traditional
release mechanism - git repositories and tarballs.

Q: Who is working on this ?
A: Giovanni, Debarshi and Florian.

Comments, questions, suggestions welcome.


[1] https://live.gnome.org/ThreePointSeven/Features/DropOrFixFallbackMode
[2] https://bugzilla.gnome.org/show_bug.cgi?id=681528
[3] https://live.gnome.org/ThreePointSeven/Features/IntegratedApplicationSearch

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