When hundreds of developers from the GNOME project fly in from different parts of the world to assemble for their yearly GUADEC conference, it's not only the perfect time to listen to lectures and get some hacking done, but also a good opportunity to perform a reality check. A step that the project has taken during the last few days at the GUADEC 2010 in Den Haag and which now bears its consequences: The release of GNOME 3.0 is going to be delayed for another six months to March 2011.
"We could release in September and have something working that is okayish, but it's not up to the standards we have", release team member Vincent Untz explains the reasoning behind the decision. While talking to derStandard.at he points out that most of the relevant projects - from Accessibility to Documentation, Art and Marketing - would have been ready to release this fall but preferred the option to delay.
One project that particularly asked for more time is GNOME Shell which is supposed to bring a whole new user experience to the desktop and as such is a vital part for releasing GNOME 3.0. While the current version of the Shell is already working pretty good for some people the developers would like to add further polish to their software, a task which would be pretty difficult to fulfill in the short time frame until September. "When we talk to users about what we want to do with GNOME3 they get excited and so we don't want to disappoint with something that is not polished enough" as Untz puts it.
During the discussions about how to handle the current situation a few other options were discussed. One of them would have been to release GNOME 3.0 with the classic 2.x UI, an idea which was quickly scraped as the new release "really is about user experience". After the delay for GNOME 3.0 was agreed on, another tricky question popped up: To do another GNOME 2.x release or just skip one cycle?
In the end it was agreed that September will see GNOME 2.32 as a new stable release which distributions can build their offerings on. The basis for this will be the 2.x series of the GTK+ toolkit, a bit of a tricky decision as some desktop modules already have migrated to the GTK+ 3.x series. Where easily possible those should be switched back to 2.x otherwise the most recent tarball for GNOME 2.30.x will be re-utilized for the September release.
In regards to the platform story - another central topic for GNOME 3.0 is the removal of a bunch of deprecated libraries and functions from the desktop offering - Untz is pretty happy about the current status. It might have been tricky to really fulfill all the goals for a September release, but that wouldn't have had any negative impact on the users anyways. The delay until March should give the project enough extra-time to fulfill its more recent goals though - like the migration to GSettings / DConf from the outdated GConf. For GNOME 2.32 both configuration systems will be supported, not an ideal situation as the long-standing release team member admits. But as this a complication that is mostly relevant for administrators - and no big Enterprise Linux release is going to be based on 2.32 anyway - it's acceptable for the time being.
Still up for discussion is the timeframe for the GTK+ 3.0 release. If possible the GNOME team would like to keep the September date, but even if some more time is needed it should be out before the end of the year, giving the GNOME developers more time to adjust their applications to the new toolkit generation. One future GTK+-feature currently under consideration is the addition of a new theming API.
Even though nobody likes to announce a delay, the Novell-paid hacker seems to be quite positive about the decision: "If you compare what we had six months ago and what we have today, if you compare what the community has done in these six months, it's really a huge amount of work." And Untz seems to be confident that no further delays will be necessary: "What could have been called a Beta last march might now be considered Release Candidate quality - and will be followed up with a pretty polished GNOME 3.0 coming March". (Andreas Proschofsky, derStandard.at, 28.07.10)