Where are we going?September 5, 2007 at 8:11 am | Posted in xubuntu | 12 Comments
DesktopLinux.com published the results of their yearly enquiry on Linux on the desktop. (Admittedly, I’m a bit late, but I was on holiday.) There were some remarkable things among the results – de enquiry was taken by twice as much people compared to last year, SUSE grown a lot, Fedora shrunk a lot – but according to me, most remarkable were the results concern the use of desktop environments. And then I don’t even mean the fact that Gnome – for the first time – was ahead of KDE.
No, what struck me most was, obviously, that Xfce was users by 8 percent of those who filled in the enquiry. Now, nobody will deny that, since version 4.4 was released, the number of users of Xfce grew, but 8 percent is a number to take into account (almost one in ten!). And when you then realize that 20% (one out of five!) uses neither Gnome nor KDE, it doesn’t seem too weird to wonder whether there is room for another, third big desktop environment. Heck, it’s already remarkable Xfce isn’t mentioned among “Others”!
Of course, as Xfce added more features its speed deteriorated a bit, and for some this will have been reason to switch to even lighter DE’s like Fluxbox or IceWM (can you even call those DE’s?). On the other hand, Xfce still is a lot faster than Gnome and KDE, and old computers of today are more powerful than old computers of a couple of years ago And the combination of features and speed (even on less old computers) is a very attractive one for some.
Of course, KDE’s new version, version 4, will attract many new users towards KDE, but I suspect that most of those people will come from the Gnome world (making KDE nr. 1 again). The difference between the two will decrease again, and if Xfce’s user base keeps growing, the three will be quite even indeed.
However, at the moment Xfce has far less developers as Gnome and KDE have, which can slow down growth quite a lot. That’s why, among Xubuntu’s developer, there is currently a discussion ongoing about whether Xubuntu should ship with more Gnome software. The reason for this is that, currently, Xubuntu ships with a few programs of less quality, with Xfburn, the CD-burning software, being the worst of all. In fact: if no alternative software can be found, probably no burning software will be shipped at all! Shipping Gnome software would raise Xubuntu’s quality feature-wise, and also brings the certainty that they are still in development and will continue to improve.
Unfortunately, there are also a few downsides to shipping Gnome applications. Some people are afraid that Xubuntu’s identify will be lost, that Xubuntu will just become “Ubuntu with another desktop environment”. Others fear that Xubuntu’s speed will deteriorate enormously.
Altogether, it comes down to the question of what is more important: speed or features? And this raises the question on Xubuntu’s target. For example, Ubuntu aims at being user-friendly, Edubuntu on use in classrooms, etc. Do we want a lightning-fast distribution, or a distro with a good balance between user-friendlyness and customizability? A question that should not be answered by the developers, but by the users of Xubuntu. You.