What Will Happen to GNOME Now?
Those who remember a time before Ubuntu will undoubtedly also remember that GNOME, although probably the second most popular desktop manager, didn't hold too much share of the Linux desktop market. KDE was king, and GNOME was a distant second. Then Ubuntu appeared and not only climbed its way to the top of the distribution game, but brought GNOME with it. Polls over the last few years have shown its use increasing to the point that it is oftentimes equalling or out-ranking KDE. But what will happen to GNOME now that Ubuntu 11.04 is going to ship with Unity?
There are two elements which will give us a clue. The first question to ask is, how much did Ubuntu developers contribute to GNOME development? The answer is not a significant amount. While a lot of discussion has been happening at Canonical about contributing upstream more, very little evidence exists that they have actually done it. Matthew Garrett points out that 91% of the code is contributed by Red Hat and they aren't likely to abandon this long standing strategy any time soon. Some Ubuntu developers state that the GNOME project didn't want any of their ideas or code and that very well may be true. Whether not offered or declined, it seems GNOME is being developed largely by Red Hat and the loss of Ubuntu's support and use will not affect development much.
The second aspect is that Ubuntu will still be shipping the underlying framework and applications as well as putting the GNOME Shell in repositories. For those who really want the familiar GNOME interface, it will be but a few clicks away.
Those close to the GNOME project have stated, "While we may have lost a distribution channel for GNOME Shell, Canonical will still be using and building with many GNOME technologies and working with the GNOME Foundation. And we still have all of our substantial technical resources working on GNOME Shell and other GNOME technologies."
So, what will happen to GNOME now that Ubuntu has effectively moved on? Not much seems to be the consensus. They will be forging ahead with business as usual.