What’s your vision of GNOME?

The GNOME Foundation's mission is to provide a free desktop accessible to everyone. Accessible regardless of their ability to pay, their physical ability or the language they speak.

But I bet if you polled all 400 members of the GNOME Foundation and a few 1000 GNOME fans, you'd get a lot of different visions of what that means. And while I think that's normal and I think that's good, I thought it might be an interesting conversation to have.

What's your vision for GNOME?

In your ideal world, does:

  • Everyone have a computer?
  • Everyone have a computer running GNOME?
  • Everyone have a computer running free software?
  • Everyone that has a computer is using free software? GNOME? (And not everyone has a computer.)
  • All personal technology, laptops, phones, handhelds, use free software? Use GNOME?
  • GNOME desktops are equivalent to Windows ones? Better?
  • GNOME desktops all look alike? GNOME desktops are "customized" like Moblin, Maemo, etc.
  • Where ever there's proprietary software, there's a free software equivalent?
  • New technologies only have free software options?
  • The free software options are better technically or easier to use than the proprietary options?
  • Everyone understands what free software means?
  • Everyone thinks that free software is important? Or is it enough that they use it?
  • Everyone uses desktops? (As opposed to only using phones or mobile devices.)
  • Governments use free software exclusively?
  • No more third world countries because everyone has access to technology which has raised their standard of living?

What's your ideal future world with GNOME look like? Share your vision, leave a comment!

(Bonus question: how does the GNOME Foundation fit into your vision?)

31 Replies to “What’s your vision of GNOME?”

  1. – GNOME brings a fascinating and a unique Desktops that really stands out from others. I mean, something more than just cool icons. The GNOME’s look makes new user to be not afraid of Linux.
    – GNOME and other free software unites people. For the time being communities are really helpful and friendly, they give an pure example of humanity, how we should collaborate.
    – Womens are involved in software developing and whole computer science

  2. Great question – have you considered posting on mailing lists as well? Might get more visibility…

  3. I don’t think it’s particularly important that everyone understands what ‘free software’ means, nor thinks that it’s important – there’s no reason why the average non-technical user should ever care about such things. Nor that proprietary software should not exist – that’s purely a decision for any given developer to make, not something that should be forced upon them.
    The important thing to me is that free software should always be a first-class citizen in the software world – and that’s primarily a matter of interoperability. I don’t think governments should be required to use free software exclusively, but they shouldn’t be ignoring it either – if they choose to use a proprietary app for creating documents, it must at minimum store those formats in a form which free software can implement without restrictions (be they patents, copy-protection, or just undue secrecy).
    One thing that stands out on your list though, the idea that the free software options should be better technically or easier to use than the proprietary options. Now *that’* a worthy goal to aim for – to compete on things your users actually care about. Free software won’t win just by being free – only it’s proponents care about that. It needs to win by being better than the alternative.

  4. Well, if GNOME 3 is gonna have 3D video acceleration as requirement, the GNOME mission is in danger. I think this is not a light requirement. Do you know anything about this point? Iร‚ยดve seen people worried about it in many forums.

  5. “No more third world countries because everyone has access to technology which has raised their standard of living.”
    Which is why Vladimir’s point regarding GNOME 3 is an apprehesnsion I share.

  6. In my ideal desktop environment, desktop applications would be able to borrow the services of the browser. For example, if the browser has some content stored with localStorage, I want to be able to get and set the same content store from other apps. The browser’s HTTP cache should be available to other apps. I’m seeing lots of great things that I can do in JavaScript inside the browser, and I want to do them from the desktop too.

  7. Why is that requirement such a big deal? Drivers are improving enough these days that any machine built in at least the last 5-6 years should have decent enough video acceleration.
    Sure, there’s older hardware out there still in use, but does anyone reasonably expect to be able to run all of the most recent software on them? My grandmother’s old machine runs XP adequately, and I don’t consider it a serious failing that Vista or Windows 7 will run on a machine of those capabilities.

  8. I think my personal vision of Gnome would be to have it more of a configurable DE. Not hiding things away, enhancing the ability to change and tweak without having to hunt and find it. This is the old adage of developers having a specific vision that they think fills everyone’s needs. Not everyone wants to have the top layer dumbed-down for them. I think as an opposed view, this is where KDE has always shined.
    Just my two cents.
    Keep your stick on the ice…

  9. Well I’d say it must be, pure free software with no patent issues that might scare away government use, have sane defaults, easy to use — easier than proprietary systems out there when possible, yet allow people to work the way they currently do in existing environments, scalable to different hardware from low end hand-held to high end centrally managed workstations.
    Zeitgeist is a clear example of a good GNOME 3.0 technology. It has lots of hooks and is scalable and innovative without taking away nautilus for those of us who like hierarchal file management.
    GNOME Shell, OTOH fails some of the tests. On the plus side, it’s support for compositing is long over due addition to GNOME, and its implementation of virtual desktops is the most intuitive that I’ve seen. On the minus side, it has few hooks. It lacks feature to work the way people currently work (e.g. no panel applets or gadgets of any kind. No launchers, etc). It’s a take it or leave it affair. If we didn’t want compositing (for low end 3rd world hardware or centrally managed server with low bandwidth expectations) or wanted a more streamlined for small screen desktop like the Maemo, you have to dump GNOME shell and all associated technology. What’s needed isn’t really to create a GNOME shell that supports all these technologies. What’s needed is to define technologies like gadgets and such that can be used in other environments to create a different view of the same GNOME shell experience. For instance, if someone defines a gadget for GNOME shell, it should be possible for the Maemo or Metacity non-composite or even (God help us) TWM to write an extension in those environments to support GNOME gadgets. Support of existing standard HTML/Javascript widgets such as Gnome Gadgets or Vista Gadgets would be make adoption of widgets a lot more compelling.
    Note, I would stay clear of tying GNOME to Mono because it would divide the GNOME community (I for one would balk) and put us at risk of being shut of (e.g. VFAT is a classic example of how Microsoft’s submarine patents whereby what used to be safe no longer is). That being said, it should be possible for someone who likes Mono to use GNOME Shell technologies in something like GNOME Do and Tomboy, especially to prototype technologies through appropriate C# bindings. But the GNOME 3.0 standard environment must exclude them. It’s a distro’s and user’s choice whether to include them and proving sufficient hooks into GNOME shell technologies and other GNOME 3.0 technologies makes such distro specific additions possible.

  10. Stormy, you have already come up with so much points. Let me just pick some of them which are important to me (some with slight modifications):
    * Everyone have a computer running free software
    * Everyone that has a computer is using free software
    * All personal technology, laptops, phones, handhelds, use free software
    * GNOME desktops are equivalent to other proprietary Desktops
    * Where ever there’s proprietary software, there’s a free software equivalent
    * New technologies always have a free software options
    * The free software options are better technically or easier to use than the proprietary options
    * Everyone has at least some basic idea about free software (like today everyone has an idea what free speech, democracy, environment protection is about)
    * Everyone understand why free software is important
    * Governments use free software and open standards exclusively
    * No more third world countries because everyone has access to technology which has raised their standard of living
    For all this points I hope GNOME will have a big market share. But i don’t want to see GNOME to be the “one-and-only”. Other Desktops/Windowmanagers have also their advantages and I think some competition is good for progress.
    Especially for GNOME I hope:
    * Not depending on proprietary software. (e.g. by demand 3D acceleration, not every hardware supports this via free software)
    * Not depending on free software which could be dangerous (e.g. Moonlight, which is only save for Novell and users only but not for other distributions)
    * get closer to GNU again, e.g. do some joint GHMs (GNU Hacker Meetings) and GUADECs.
    * A stunning GNOME3 release.

  11. Gnome and the Gnome Foundation are both very complex, and evoke a lot of different ideas and emotions, but I think two ideas are really central. From an economic perspective, the development platform that the Gnome Foundation creates represents a new cooperative model where private companies and interested individuals more or less give away a labor in the hopes of greater compensation later. For private companies, that compensation might by profits through services provided to people who use the platform; while for individual hobbyists, the compensation is manifest in the work itself, and/or the sense of having done good. Either way, the end result is a massive positive externality from which everyone can benefit, and which is far greater in value than the cost that went into creating Gnome itself.
    From a design perspective, I *would like* Gnome to become a ubiquitous, seamless, and highly portable computing platform that anticipates my needs and gets out of my way. It should be fast, very stable, and its user interface should be consistent across all applications. As a platform, it should be possible to make the most beautiful and cutting edge themes. It should be easy to understand for users, and be easy to develop for programmers to attract 3rd party developers.
    I see these two aspects of Gnome, the cooperative Foundation and the software platform, being better integrated through a more centralized role for the Foundation. I would like the Gnome Foundation to act more as a true non-for-profit, and begin collecting donations like Wikipedia or the Ford Foundation, and distributing funds to specific applications or parts of Gnome that need them the most. Or maybe it could sell advertisements from corporate sponsors, or engage in other capital raising ventures, and redistribute the money toward its projects.
    That, in a nutshell, is my vague and pie-in-the-sky view of Gnome.

  12. I think modern OS/applications make it very easy to create content (Gnome isn’t good at video-editing), but they are not very good at managing and sharing all the content being created. I would love to be able to create, tag and share my content with friends and family as easily from my desktop as I do on Facebook – pick a name, done. I want the OS to worry about storing/organising the content based on metadata. Using my address book, I want the os to set-up the networking for friends and family. I also would like to easily find my content using my tags to browse and/or search.
    I know I am dreaming, but maybe someday….

  13. Easy to use, fun to use, and doesn’t get in the way.
    What GNOME has now is enough in one sense, and woefully short in another. All the core features a desktop needs are pretty much there; it’s the polish and finesse that GNOME falls way short on. Simple things like searching for files in Nautilus requires 5 times more buttons, clicks, typing, and pain than searching in something like Windows Explorer on Windows 7. (e.g., in Explorer/7, I just click the search bar, type *.pdf, and all my PDF files are found. Nautilus requires way more work to do a simple search like that, and it doesn’t even do wildcards at all.)
    I don’t need or want any of the new experimental “work flow” changes that people are proposing for GNOME 3. I just want the desktop’s warts and rough edges cleaned up, nothing more. I can orgnanize my own files just the way I want just fine, I don’t need meta-data indexers that auto-generate feeds of data on attributes I don’t even care about. I don’t need unified messaging that actually makes it HARDER to communicate the way I want (e.g., I may be online all the time, but I have more than one online identify and I need to be able to manage presence on them individually, so when I’m not on the clock I don’t have to put up with clients bugging me at 10pm at night with questions I don’t care about; all of the GNOME IM clients have been making this harder and harder to do compared to how easy GAIM made it years ago). I don’t need the Web integrated into any of my desktop apps other than my browser.
    I want the future GNOME to include just making the stuff that’s already there actually work at a professional level instead of constantly reinventing the whole damn thing every time the desktop experience gets to the 80% mark and the devs get bored.
    (PS, the Preview button on your blog is broken, it just reloads the page and loses whatever I typed in — Chrome Beta on Linux)

  14. * Everyone have a computer?
    Not nessecary, personal computers and technology aren’t for everyone, netcafes are enough for most.
    * Everyone have a computer running GNOME?
    Not nessecary, plenty of other UI environments out there.
    * Everyone have a computer running free software?
    Not nessecary. It is more important that people can choose free software on their specific device than actually using it there.
    * Everyone that has a computer is using free software? GNOME? (And not everyone has a computer.)
    Nice to have.
    * All personal technology, laptops, phones, handhelds, use free software? Use GNOME?
    Nice to have.
    * GNOME desktops are equivalent to Windows ones? Better?
    No, Yes.
    * GNOME desktops all look alike? GNOME desktops are “customized” like Moblin, Maemo, etc.
    Less forkage would be good. However, GNOME should look different depending on the device/form factor you install it on.
    * Where ever there’s proprietary software, there’s a free software equivalent?
    Yes please. Some technologies should just die though; Flash, Silverlight, JavaScript, CSS (content over presentation and behaviour please).
    * New technologies only have free software options?
    Not nessecarily needed
    * The free software options are better technically or easier to use than the proprietary options?
    Sounds good to me!
    * Everyone understands what free software means?
    Unlikely to ever happen due to the inevitable failure of human communication.
    * Everyone thinks that free software is important? Or is it enough that they use it?
    People think differently, that will never happen. Since using it may convert them to developers, it would be nice.
    * Everyone uses desktops? (As opposed to only using phones or mobile devices.)
    Absolutely not.
    * Governments use free software exclusively?
    Governments are an unnessecary evil and should go away or be hampered by buggy proprietary software.
    * No more third world countries because everyone has access to technology which has raised their standard of living?
    “Third World” doesn’t mean what you think it means:
    Technology isn’t the saviour you seem to think it is. The main reason people starve these days are politics preventing food distribution.

  15. Its a problem because there will always be hardware without 3D capability and increasing the requirements thus excludes people from using GNOME. Different countries have different levels of access to technology too.
    nouveau will always be behind new releases of NVIDIA hardware. Especially the new ARM-based hardware with NVIDIA Tegra cards worry me. FLOSS 3D drivers are an extreme rarity in the embedded and smart phone world.

  16. My main vision for GNOME is of a platform that let me get the job done, standing in the way as little as possible. But I am a sophisticated user, for me “getting the job done” is a complex requirement, in include video editing (one of GNOME’s weakest points currently, for the moment I’m forced to use Kdenlive), internet banking (still a problem here, I use a certain bank exclusively for its Linux/Firefox friendliness), photo and graphic editing (color calibration still lacking) and more.
    My main fear is towards dumbing-down, I tried Moblin and found it useled, I tried a preview of GNOME Shell and instantly hated it. I still hope GNOME Shell as is currently shaped is not the GNOME future, otherwise I may have to stop upgrading or change platform.
    PS: I would like my next phone to run Free software, but that’s currently out of the price range I am content with.

  17. GNOME needs to be easier to use and more featureful than other options. This can be achieved through several means:
    1) More sharing of information between GNOME desktop applications. If one application knows about an account (e.g. Google), the others should know, as well and connecting should be offered. Telepathy helps with this problem. Tagging in one app should reflect in all apps, bring me to …
    2) Tracker (or other indexer) integration. Zeitgeist is working toward this with its use of tracker-store. The metadata should be available to all apps, but the data shouldn’t be locked into the applications …
    3) Store data as plain files whenever possible and use an indexer like Tracker to mitigate the speed problems with the plain file approach. Don’t put my e-mail in a database: put it in MailDir format. Don’t store my music or photos in music.db and photos.db.
    4) GNOME devs should eat their own dog food. I thinks it’s amazing to hear GNOME devs say things like “I spend 99% of my time in OS X.” How can the project progress when there’s no itch to scratch?

  18. I live in Brazil and the brazilian government promotes a program to sell popular computers called “Computador para todos”.
    But, unfortunately, these computers have SIS video cards (with no 3D video acceleration for Linux) and make a huge success. So, these customers is not going to run GNOME on their machines.
    How about “The GNOME Foundation’s mission is to provide a free desktop accessible to everyone”?
    We gotta think a little bit about this issue.

  19. I’m a programmer. I don’t get end users, user interfaces, or any of that jazz. I know that I prefer certain interfaces to other, but I can’t explain what makes them good. What excites me is the whole stack, from Linux up to the widget toolkit, of awesome tools and libraries.
    My vision for the future is that everyone will have to use this stack, because it’s grown superior to all alternatives. I don’t really care if some of the end user applications are proprietary – sometimes innovation happens that way at first, until a free version has caught up, and sometimes things have to stay proprietary for legal reasons – as long as it works properly and integrates with the free GNOME/Linux stack.
    I understand that, in order to achieve this, nice libraries is not enough: the computer needs to kick ass for the end users. Not only the traditional free software coders, but also artists, interface experts, documentation writers and all and every kind of developer needs to become involved, explaining what could be improved and what they need to become more productive themselves. I think GNOME has been relatively good at attracting different types of developers in the past, but I think this is an area that could be improved, possibly through the GNOME Foundation.

  20. I don’t think technology will solve all the problems in the developing world but I do think many people think it will.
    I do think it can make a difference though. Look at how cell phones have changed things for people in some countries. It’s not the technology itself but the communication it enables.

  21. I thought about starting the conversation on the mailing list but I wasn’t sure how conducive it would be to a mailing list … I can try though!

  22. Hardware graphics acceleration is also a problem as thin clients become increasingly popular, as not all thin clients support it. Nor do all customers want it; I know at least one customer who currently uses GNOME desktops on thin clients who wouldn’t use 3D acceleration even if it was available, for security reasons.

  23. What is my vision of Gnome? I would like to see…
    1. UI consistency
    2. Better/Easier UI tweaking
    3. Not *dependent* on 3D acceleration, but have some nice *optional* features that made good use of that ability
    4. Speed!
    5. Application launching that is familiar. Start/Task bars and docks have been around for years. Don’t make the user use Gnome-shell to launch an app.
    6.(Hard for me to say this) Catch up to where KDE4 is with modern niceties like widgets and UI tricks.
    7. NO GNOME-SHELL (or at least make it a feature and not the focus)

  24. I responded earlier, but I would like to add a little more after thinking about it. Above, I wrote that I would like to see the Gnome Foundation acting more like other not-for-profits and become a central hub for collecting donations for redistribution among chosen race-pony favorite applications. On that note of a more centralized role, I would also like for the Gnome foundation to do more of some of the things traditionally done by downstream distributions, like standardizing minimum expected default libraries, packaging standards, and application distribution.
    Right now, because these issues are unaddressed, individual downstream distributions are individually seeking technical solutions which are mutually incompatible, and to the detriment of all. Packaging is and library differences are a couple of the most well known problems, but now distros are also coming up with their own app stores, and plans for paid app downloads. Distro specific app stores are a very bad development in my opinion, because it is a potential revenue stream that could be going back into the Gnome Foundation to be redistributed among other open source projects, but instead will benefit only the distro that implements it, and its supporting company. If distribution is monopolized by just one distro and its single backing corporation, there is no guarantee that it will reinvest that revenue to the greater benefit of the community.
    I am not a technical person or programmer, but why couldn’t Gnome itself begin to act more like a downstream distribution by centralizing more of these aspects? Is a Gnome distribution, even if not branded as such, completely unrealistic? This is an honest question, as I am not a programmer and really don’t know.

  25. Hmm. Kinda funny..
    Me being a developer and all – but in my ideal world, technology does not exist. ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. Define a vision for a general purpose graphic environment means define a vision for evolution of computing in next years. Mobile is growing fast, network-centric approach is perhaps growing faster, but many segments are not covered at all.
    I think a more efficient integration with the Web would be desiderable (starting from the basic framework for developers, which sometime lacks), but also a more efficient integration with domestic networks of many PCs, condition no more so rare in many end-users’ homes: improve backups facilities, improve sync between computers (desktop, laptop or mobile), improve sharing in a local networked environment…
    Also, I like envision to separate the whole application stack in backends and frontends (as barely described here -> http://pvanhoof.be/blog/index.php/2009/05/04/e-mail-as-a-desktop-service-this-is-how-it-should-be-done for mails, but applicable to any context), where Tracker can be a backend for almost everything. This would raise integration among applications (since data mixing and linking is done once on lower levels, and end-user applications just would present them) and enforce code reusability, because the same low-level daemon (with all his functionalities) would be accessed by many applications with unpredictable final results.

  27. I can tell you what my vision of Gnome is NOT. It is not Gnome-Shell. I love Gnome precisely because of it’s subdued functional approach to desktop design. Gnome-Shell, once you get past the cool animations, is eye candy in the guise of user friendliness. In many respects it’s a regression (no more vertical panels, more steps to open an application, more mouse driven, gratuitous complication of using multiple workspaces, a universal search mechanism that is less capable than the already existing and less intrusive Gnome-Do, annoying shrinking and expanding of desktop every time you open an application or document which is also far less useful than the Expose plugin in Compiz). For my more extended critique of why I dread the shift to Gnome-Shell, with Gnome 3.0, see my posts here:
    I’m also astonished how much the Gnome developer community has isolated itself from the vast Gnome user base and in general shown disdain for its userbase, by planning to shove the radical Gnome-Shell revision down everyone’s throats without any meaningful mechanism for feedback. I doubt many of the probably millions of users has any idea what’s coming. It’s so undemocratic I don’t know where to start.

  28. Nor do I see this welcome because Gnome has to see the countries emegentes or 3 the third world country in Brazil acquire the video card still costs money to buy enough to make such a project and exclude the majority of the population that say in passing and third in the world that it uses the Gnome somo somo today the community’s most active canonical or users of Ubuntu that comes standard with Gnome installed I think gnome should rather come with 3D effect that is more like an option who can use or could use or turn off according to hardware
    hug AlefeSampaio

  29. I would like for the Global Menu to work with Firefox. Here is an associated bug report:

    This is a key statement, seemingly from someone at Mozilla, from the above bug report:
    “This is WONTFIX until such time as GNOME adopts this functionality officially.”

    So basically, I wish GNOME would adopt the global menu functionality officially, presumably in the context of the GNOME 2.x panel construct.

    Perhaps GNOME should maintain two separate project tracks, a 2.x-ish track for people who like GNOME that way and have no desire for GNOME Shell, and a track for the GNOME developers to explore whatever else they are actually interested in that the end users are not interested in (e.g., GNOME Shell).

    If even with GNOME 3.x I can maintain my CURRENT desktop, which is modified with the Mac4Lin package to have an Aqua-ish interface, then I personally don’t mind whatever changes come. But if the GNOME changes break my ability to emulate Aqua, then I won’t be upgrading my GNOME (nor will I be adopting Unity).

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