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KDE Strides Ahead While Gnome Stagnates - page 2

KDE vs. Gnome: With Age Comes Lard

  • April 5, 2009
  • By Bruce Byfield

In comparison, what has GNOME offered in the last two years? A move away from Bonobo component model to the D-Bus communication system (which is inspired by KDE's DCOP), an overhaul of notifications to make them less obtrusive, plans for transforming GTK+ and maturing infrastructure such as PackageKit, PolicyKit and Vala -- and relatively little else, and even less that is visible to the user.

You can see the differences in the current states of the two desktops from the reviews. Reviews about KDE are not always positive, but they are about large issues and shifts in the desktop paradigm. Reading them, you cannot help but come away with the impression that KDE developers are headed in a definite direction, even if you disagree with some or all of the details.

By comparison, reviews of new GNOME releases are a description of a random collection of applications. The reviews might as well be written in bullet points (and often they are), because no unified vision seems to underlie the selection of new applications. Or, if there is a vision, it is not being communicated to users. The impression is that GNOME has become like the Big Three Automakers, making minor changes to the body and upholstery, while the important innovations are being introduced by their rivals.

Of course, this situation won't last. As the KDE 4 series of releases matures, much of the excitement over them will diminish. Moreover, should the GNOME project carry out its plans, the 2.30 release should generate its own excitement when released a year from now.

But that's the point: by the time GNOME is modernized, KDE will have had two years to perfect the 4.x releases. And, even when GNOME 2.3 finally arrives, it sounds like more of an overhaul than a complete rewriting, which makes its competitiveness questionable.

In the short term, GNOME's gradualism seems sensible. It doesn't confuse users, and it doesn't accumulate bad reviews from writers with an aversion to change. But, in the long-term, it could very well mean continuing to be dragged down by support for legacy sub-systems. It means being reduced to an imitator rather than innovator.

By contrast, you could say that KDE has done what's necessary and ripped the bandage off the scab. In the short term, the result has been a lot of screaming, but, in the long-term, it has done what was necessary to thrive.

KDE Vision, GNOME Maintenance

This prediction does not mean that KDE managed the release of 4.0 well. If anything, from a management perspective, the project bungled the release -- especially since reviews of beta releases should have provided clues about what the reactions could be.

A transition guide, and clearer communication to distributions that 4.0 was not intended for the average user, might have eliminated many of the complaints. But how the project dealt with expectations has nothing to do with the software engineering.

Nor am I suggesting that every change in the KDE 4.0 releases was a successful one. Personally, I have nursed a grievance against the default Kickoff menu since I first saw it in an early beta. But experiments by definition are not always successful.

Considering that alternatives are available, who cares about a few failures? The chances are, they cost less in terms of usability and developers' time than maintaining continuity with the past at all costs.

In all the controversies -- both the real ones and those imagined by journalists -- what has been lost is the exact nature of what KDE has been doing. When the free desktop quietly came to match the functionality of its rivals, the GNOME team decided to be content with maintenance and minor additions. However, the KDE team decided to try to take the lead in desktop development. KDE became a project with vision -- a vision that has gone largely unnoticed, but one that GNOME so far has been unable to match.

It is this vision, as flawed as it sometimes seems, that gives KDE the evolutionary advantage for the next few years. Far from reducing KDE's competitiveness, as Jack Wallen suggests, the 4.x series may be exactly what the desktop needs to restore its market share.

Article courtesy of Datamation

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