Unity: Some Further Clarification Points

After hectic few weeks on the road I am now back in sunny California, and we had a wonderful Ubuntu Developer Summit in Orlando, Florida. Thanks to everyone who made the event such a success. It was so great to meet so many old friends and to meet the may new friends who experienced UDS for the first time. Looking forward to working with you in the Natty cycle!

At the start of UDS Mark made the announcement that on hardware that supports it, Unity will be shipped as the default environment for Ubuntu 11.04. Since the announcement there has been a lot of commentary and articles about the decision, mostly of the view of “if you folks can pull this off, this will be awesome“. Thanks to everyone for the confidence and support in our community and in Canonical. I know we can make this rock, but we are going to need to pull together to make it happen. Throughout this cycle we are really uniting as a community, and this feeling was electrifying at UDS; there was a real shared sense of opportunity, and I for one am ready to dig my heels in and make this happen. :-)

By and large the commentary since the announcement has reflected the facts, but some articles have got things a little skewed. My view here is simple: I think everyone should be welcome to have their own view on Unity, either supportive or cynical, under the premise that the basis of the discussion reflects the facts and not misinformation.

So, I just wanted to clarify some of the key points regarding the transition to Unity by default in Ubuntu 11.04 to make sure these facts are clearly communicated:

  • Ubuntu is not ditching/forking GNOME – Unity is a shell for GNOME, but not GNOME shell. Ubuntu is still a GNOME platform. 11.04 will ship all the components required for GNOME application authors to have their software run out of the box in Ubuntu, and we will still ship all the GNOME apps you know and love in Ubuntu 11.04. The only change is that Unity will be the default shell. Likewise, this is not a fork: we are not diverging away from GNOME, just producing a different shell in much the same way others have (e.g. Meego). It is just a different porthole looking at the awesome GNOME platform.
  • Unity is the 3D experience, Classic GNOME is the 2D interface – if your graphics hardware cannot sufficiently run Unity, Ubuntu will present the 2D experience which is the two-panel GNOME desktop we currently ship, complete with all the Ayatana improvements such as application indicators, global menu, system indicators etc.
  • Accessibility is a top priority – currently Unity has rather poor accessibility support (read: basically non-existent) and accessibility is a core ethos in Ubuntu. As such, Luke Yelavich has been assigned to the DX team (the folks who code Unity) to work on accessibility support in Unity, and he will be supported by Gary Lasker. In addition to this, we had a great set of meetings at UDS with the Ubuntu Accessibility community team and they are synced up with Luke to help support this work with testing, bug triage, and outreach. Great accessibility is a requirement for Unity if it is to ship in 11.04: let’s pull together to make this happen.
  • Performance is being resolved; porting to Compiz – some of you have experienced poor Unity performance on certain netbooks due to their graphics cards. This has been identified is a core issue to resolve and it is largely due to performance issues in clutter and mutter (the graphics backend for Unity). To resolve this Jason has started work on a Compiz port, and early results (i.e. less than a week of hacking!) have already seen significant performance improvements. He demoed it to some folks on hardware that received the most performance bug reports, and the performance was incredible snappy and slick; it exhibited the kind of responsiveness and animation that you should expect from a high quality experience.
  • Quality is a top priority – Neil and the rest of the Unity team worked off their socks to get Unity read for the 10.10 netbook edition, and despite their best efforts, there were some quality issues highlighted and bug reported. The team believes they have bug reports for the majority of issues, and this cycle they are spending most of their time focusing on resolving these quality issues so as to deliver a top-notch Unity experience. In this cycle I am also going to leading my team to help build community support and contributions around quality too, particularly around highlighting areas in which the community can help resolve and fix issues.
  • GNOME Shell is supported in Ubuntu – although we are not shipping GNOME Shell on the disc and as the default environment for Ubuntu, we believe that users should be able to get a top-notch GNOME Shell experience in Ubuntu. With Ubuntu Software Center providing one-click access to software, getting a GNOME Shell experience up and running should only be a click away. To be clear, Seb and co who work on the Canonical desktop team have limited resources to assist with this effort, but they are keen to ensure we have a great GNOME Shell experience and are happy to work with the community to make this happen. Want to make sure you get a rocking GNOME Shell in Ubuntu? Mail me and let’s see what we can do to make this happen. :-)
  • Unity is an Open Source project – Unity is Free Software and a full Open Source project in which we are going to rely on the community to help make this rock. We are looking for help with design, documentation, translations, development, and more! Curious to see how you can help? See this page for more!

I think those are the main points for clarification. Many thanks for all those who have been helping to ensure the correct information and facts have been clarified in the various commentary happening around the tubes.

Thanks also to everyone who is ready to roll their sleeves up and make this effort rock. I am hugely excited for the Ubuntu 11.04 release, and this is going to be a fun cycle as we all circle around Unity and bring our different skills and diversity of experience and make it the most innovative Ubuntu release yet. Start your engines…

Do you have more questions? Are there some things I have not covered here or want more detail on? Be sure to join my live video Q+A session in which I will answer all your questions! Join us on Wed 3rd Nov 2010 at 11am Pacific / 2pm Eastern / 6pm UTC at this location to get involved. See you then!

  • Neo

    Unity does represent a fork of GNOME in so much as it is a very significant divergence from upstream GNOME and won’t include GNOME Shell, a integral part of the GNOME 3 release. It seems you are afraid to admit it for fear of a backlash but it seems dishonest to continue to diverge while avoiding the “f” word like the plague :-)

    Are you willing to convince Canonical to drop their copyright assignment requirement for Unity? As long as Unity requires this, it will never be part of upstream GNOME


    Mark Shuttleworth claims that Canonical tried to work with GNOME Shell team on design ideas but could not resolve differences. Can you point out to what exactly Canonical tried by references to bug reports or mailing list discussions?

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  • Oraculous Octopus

    I hope Unity will be stable and rock until the Natty release.

    But what I don’t get: if you think Mutter has performance issues, why not fix them instead of hopping technologies? This would be to the benefit of other projects such as Gnome Shell and MeeGo Netbook as well.

    And what is the story behind Copyright Assignment?

  • Bob

    Unity looks great. I would love to see it in Debian Sid.

  • habtool

    +1 for what Neo said above

  • http://www.foobacca.co.uk/ Hamish

    I note you say ” the 2D experience which is the two-panel GNOME desktop we currently ship, complete with all the Ayatana improvements such as application indicators, global menu, system indicators etc.”

    Does this mean that desktop unity will use the global menu by default? Will there be an option to turn off global menu?

    I don’t feel really strongly about the default, but I do think it should be simple to have unity with menus on the windows.

  • neo

    Canonical claims it doesn’t have the resources to fix Mutter performance issues but afaik, they haven’t reported any bugs upstream and fixing up Unity for the desktop involves about a dozen members from Canonical working full time on related things. So it does appear Canonical is using copyright assignment to control the codebase and using performance problems and design differences as posturing.

  • http://shanefagan.com Shane Fagan

    Its more about what features mutter has that compiz has. Mutter is only new really and isnt at all as feature complete or stable as compiz. The problems in 10.10 with mutter if you have tried unity are really obvious and those issues arent going to get fixed in 6 months for the next ubuntu release cycle.

  • http://njpatel.blogspot.com Neil Jagdish Patel

    Hi Neo, We spent quite some time last cycle working around Mutter issues (using tricks to get around the constant repainting) and also trying to fix fundamental Clutter performance issues (http://bugzilla.clutter-project.org/show_bug.cgi?id=2237).

    Unity stresses Mutter differently than what GNOME Shell does and we would have been unable to make such large changes to Mutter/Clutter while not breaking GNOME Shell AND delivering something for Natty.

    With that in mind, we looked at Compiz again and the re-write had some excellent features and most people know how well it performs. The community have been very accepting and we’ve made good progress so far. I’m sorry that you feel we should have stuck with Mutter, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with choosing Compiz, it has humbly served the GNOME community for years, making the 2D desktop absolutely rock and I’m proud to say that we are using it as a basis for Unity.

    Finally, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second on recommending Clutter for applications on the desktop, it’s an excellent toolkit and has a great API. We just feel that we need something more low-level for the window-manager/compositor/shell, and that’s the route we are taking.

  • http://opensourcers.blogspot.com pavan

    awesome!! i loved unity interface… but some of my pc’s dont have gpu’s or any sort of stuff…so gnome will be working well and good in 11.04 desktop edition ryt!??!

  • mattviator

    Then what will be the difference between the desktop version and the netbook version? Or will the be one and the same>?

  • http://rivenathos.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/uds-nn/ Ubuntu Developer Summit – Natty Narwhal | Yep, Just My Stuff
  • Oraculous Octopus

    Ok, my expectations are high 😀 Though I’m very unsure which one of the 3 desktops (Classic, Shell, Unity) I will choose in the end. And I don’t know which one I should recommend to my father w.r.t. long term continuity.

  • http://blog.jjoseph.de Jens

    Hi Jono,

    thank you for your words. I am using Unity since the first versions on Lucid on my netbook (I run a second laptop with gnome desktop also). On my netbook I like this really easy to use interface but it let me enough space for my personality use of gnome. Ok, sometimes the performance is optimizable but you pointed it out before.

    My best


  • Virgil Brummond

    Thanks for the clarification Mr. Bacon. I am going to test and report bugs for Unity throughout Natty development. I really think you guys have the resources to make this rock and I am willing to do my part.

    Lets make this a great release!

  • http://anotherubuntu.blogspot.com MadsRH

    Seems to me like they want different things. Canonical wanted things GNOME didn’t want to adopt – like Global menus, Zeitgeist and Notify OSD.

  • Matthew Garrett

    You’re talking about shipping something that’s significantly different to upstream gnome. Describing it as anything other than a fork is as incorrect as saying that Canonical perform upstream Gnome development by working on Ayatana. It just leaves you looking dishonest and prevents a rational discussion about the reasons for your desire to do so.

  • anonim

    I’m curious, what’s so different in unity than gnome-shell/moblin seem to work fine with mutter?

  • http://linuxease.com Clint Brothers

    This is great, it has calmed my forking fears. Thanks Jono for clearing it up for me.

  • Michael Banck


    it is fair to say that Unity is Open Source, however, claiming it to be “Free Software” (as coined by the FSF) is stretching things quite a bit too far due to the restrictive copyright assignments required to join the team (I do not dare say community here).

    Sure, one can fork Unity as one pleases and make it a true Free Software project, but the current product as developped by Canonical is not in line with the spirit of the Free Software community (though I think Bradley Kuhn is wrong to call it Open Core, at least for now).


  • jono

    That’s simply not true. A fork is taking a pre-existing code base and taking it in a different direction…splitting the code path in two. Unity is not based on existing code, it is an entirely new project, and therefore not a fork.

    Now, if you want to accuse Unity of forking the direction of GNOME because it is != GNOME Shell, then there is more of an argument in that (I would still disagree, as I believe that multiple shells that expose the GNOME Platform are a good thing).

  • Simon

    I think there is need for love at https://bugzilla.gnome.org/browse.cgi?product=gnome-panel

    Would Canonical commit resources to make sure that gnome-panel gets updated to work in GNOME 3? It looks it needs external (to GNOME) developers.

  • Oraculous Octopus

    If they do not want Contributors Agreement.


    libzeitgeist, dbusmenu, notify-osd are on the list. Although I don’t think Canonical will make them closed source.

  • http://njpatel.blogspot.com Neil Jagdish Patel

    We have more things on the screen as default, a bunch of animations in the launcher as well as trying to use shaders. The first two are more of a culprit than anything else, but they are non-negotiable for the user experience.

    So, we just end up painting a whole lot more than Shell every frame and this doesn’t give great battery life on some netbooks, for instance, as well as some other issues.

  • http://www.gatito.co.uk raymond

    I’m using Unity as I write this and on a netbook I think it makes sense, however I just don’t see it working on a desktop. How does it handle a multi-monitor set up?

  • zekopeko

    Unity is (L)GPLv3. That puts it firmly in the “Free Software as (coined by FSF)” camp.

    Implying that the copyright assignment is somehow anti-Free Software is ironic since the FSF also requires copyright assignment on their projects.

    By those standards FSF’s GNU projects are not Free Software.

  • pinky

    I’m not a big fan of Ubuntus direction.

    But here I just have to disagree:

    >it is fair to say that Unity is Open Source, however, claiming it to be “Free Software” (as coined by the FSF) is stretching things quite a bit too far

    Free Software defined by FSF consists of 4 points:

    • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
    • The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
    • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
    • The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

    Unity matches all four point (Unity license: GNU GPLv3, GNU LGPLv3) so it’s definitely Free Software.

    Copyright assignment has nothing to do with it. Even GNU does copyright assignment. Free Software only a matters about “what can you do with your copy of the program”.

  • http://ubuntu4beginners.wordpress.com/ Maxx

    From what we had discussed at the UDS, I think Unity on Desktop will have a good multi-monitor setup. However I’m not 100% on this and we’ll have to how things go as development progresses.

  • Bob

    I don’t believe that gnome-shell works without a GPU. I don’t know about unity.

  • Rehdon

    “A fork is taking a pre-existing code base and taking it in a different direction.”

    Doesn’t that describe exactly what you’re doing? If I got it right, you’re taking the Gnome code base, keeping the basic stuff, throwing away what makes Gnome the 3.0 version its developers want it to be (i.e. Gnome Shell) and grafting in your stuff (i.e. Unity, global menus, windicators, notify osd).

    If that’s not enough to qualify Natty’s Gnome as a fork, I honestly don’t know what could be.

    I’ve been using Ubuntu since the 5.04 times, but I’m very confused and not quite happy with the plans for 11.04. Also, it seems you’re completely ignoring the opinion of people saying just that, as you did with the window buttons order.

    If I have to make a zillion changes to a default Ubuntu install just to get to the desktop I want to use, I guess I’ll have to look elsewhere.


  • Oraculous Octopus

    Both Gnome and Ubuntu say that they want to support classic panels as fallback.

  • Oraculous Octopus

    “grafting in your stuff (i.e. Unity, global menus, windicators, notify osd).”

    If the apps must be patched for notify-osd, will the support for the gnome3 notifications be left in? So that the apps work as intended with both shells?

  • Michael Banck

    There is a fundamental difference between the way the FSF does copyright assignments and how Canonical and other proprietary companies do: The FSF’s assignments guarantee that the project you contribute to will always be Free Software in the spirit of the GPL.

    Canonical does not guarantee this, they can dual-license Unity and sell it commercially under a proprietary license to OEMs whenever they like under their current contract.

    This is the core of the issues people from the community have with this; if the Unity contributor agreement was identical to the FSF one, all would be great.


  • Daffy

    I really can’t see unity working well on large screen desktops. It shares many of the features that make OS X increasingly painful to use on big screens, not least the unified menu bar.

  • Matthew Garrett

    Imagine it this way. If gnome were released as single tarball, you’d be replacing a chunk of code within it with a different piece of code and it’d obviously be a fork. Gnome is a well defined suite of software. Changing that definition in a way that the upstream developers don’t agree with is a de-facto fork. The body of code that you’re calling Gnome is significantly different to what upstream’s calling Gnome.

    Forking isn’t bad. It’s been an important part of the development of several projects. I have absolutely no idea why you’re fixated on this idea of denying that you’re forking Gnome rather than simply setting out the arguments that led to you making the decision to do so.

  • Matthew Garrett

    Releasing code under a BSD-style license permits anyone to incorporate it into a proprietary project, but it’s still free software. I think Canonical’s copyright assignment policy is an incredibly bad idea and I think in the long run it’ll do them more harm than good, but I don’t think it’s incompatible with free software.

  • Virgil Brummond

    It is being redesigned for the desktop.

  • Jef Spaleta

    Hmm that get involve page for Unity doesn’t mention anything about having to sign the Canonical copyright assignment agreement. Is that an oversight? Or is Canonical dropping that requirement?

    If canonical isn’t dropping that requirement the bzr instructions should read: grant branch create push rock

    if canonical really needs help in development then Canonical really needs to drop its copyright assignment policy on code contributions.

    Note that Canonical treats code contribution differently from other forms of contribution. Translators don’t have to assign copyright. Launchpad asks translators to license their contributions as BSD but does not require assignment to Canonical.


  • zekopeko

    It still doesn’t prove your point. Unity is Free Software no matter how much you would like to prove otherwise.

  • zekopeko

    asks translators to license their contributions as BSD but does not require assignment to Canonical.

    I wonder why…

  • jono

    It is an oversight. I will get that page updated.

  • Rob

    Dare i say that ubuntu is turning a little microsoft on us!!! Forced changes and all…..

  • Juanjo Marin


    I think that Canonical can ship whatever they want, even they can say Ubuntu is a GNOME based distribution. Of course, the copyright assignment is not a good idea for a core component of the user experience, especially if we take into account Canonical is a profit organization.

    But the point I really think Canonical is doing terribly wrong is about the way they solve their divergences with GNOME decisions. Canonical opinions and feedback are not well represented in GNOME forums. I agree that ideas of Canonical and Ubuntu community about the future of GNOME can be generated outside of GNOME, but after that you have to present your ideas in GNOME forums if you want to be into account by the GNOME project.

    Maybe this isn’t totally a Canonical issue, and GNOME can help to improve this, but I’m sure that Canonical can do much better.

  • http://wa3fkg.blogspot.com Ken Sprouse

    I’m glad I caught your tweet leading to this article. I have become a huge fan of Ubuntu and I prefer the Gnome environment. It is great that you can have it with KDE and a number of others but I have converted a number of Windows users to Linux now with Ubuntu and I think Gnome is part of the reason.

  • Jef Spaleta

    That is unfortunate.

    If Canonical is serious about getting community to help with the development load the copyright assignment is a real and significant barrier to entry.

    Jono, ask around, amongst those you trust outside the Canonical fenceline. This assignment policy kills quality code contribution from many quarters (even inside the Ubuntu community).

    This really needs to be change. If you are serious about seeing community get involved in the development the current copyright policy must be set aside and something more respectful to external contributors must take it place.


  • Bob

    Do you have a reference to a webpage where the Gnome project promises to keep maintaining the classic menus?

    I thought that they were going to drop the classic menus as soon as 3.0 was out, but I may be wrong.

  • jono

    Jef, you know that I am well aware of your views on the copyright assignment policy, and I know that you are well aware that I don’t make the decisions on it – is it really worth continually repeating yourself to me about it?

    I don’t have the authority to decide on it, it’s content, or how it is applied; that is something the executive management team in Canonical decide.

  • http://blog.christophersmart.com Chris Smart

    Hi Jono,

    You might not make the decisions on copyright assignment, but you could be its champion (if you agreed with the principle).

    Someone has to take it to the executive management team and fight for it. I can’t believe that you, as the Ubuntu Community Manager, would not have any say in it at all.


  • Darryl Ware

    Free software is all about choice, unless of course you are from Canonical in which case there seems to be an expectation that you just do whatever the rest of the community decrees.

    Support a diverse ecosystem.

  • Darryl Ware

    I just read that back and I should clarify by saying that the expectation is coming from some of Ubuntu’s detractors. Their opinion comes off sounding like it’s critical of anyone that dares to go off in their own direction and who dare to do something different.

  • Murat Gunes

    “Gnome is a well defined suite of software.”

    I have to contest your notion of “well defined” in this context.

    The very problem that makes conflicts like the one at hand hard to assess and resolve is that there’s no clear definition of what precisely GNOME is supposed to be with regard to its downstream relationships. Is GNOME a kind of marketplace that distributors / vendors should pick and choose packages from according to their needs? Is it a complete, user-facing product that is supposed to be experienced by users with little or no modification? Is it both, or something in between, or something else?

    Given the lack of clarity on what constitutes “doing GNOME”, and what is “breaking away from GNOME”, it’s impossible for any stakeholder involved to substantiate any argument for or against modifying GNOME in whatever manner and to whatever extent.

    The recent module set reorganization, and Stormy Peters’s assessment of the Unity vs. Shell situation hint to some hope in this regard, but overall, the situation remains vague.

  • ismail

    Well Ubuntu has been using Firefox as its default browser for so long and none has said that it was a fork of Gnome. Why now when it is trying to use use another app (the shell) it will be fork??? All the distributions do this, it’s normal.

    PS: I like Gnome 3, Gnome Shell, n’ especially the notification of Gnome 3.

  • Jef Spaleta

    If you are going to continue to stump for community members to get involved.. then yes its worth repeating.

    I’m fully aware that you as a community manager inside Canonical have no actual authority to actually set the rules of engangement under which community is allowed to work with Canonical. You just keep your head down and do your job. I totally get that.

    But you have to realize that if your goals as a community manager really are to see more contribution to Unity then the contributor agreement is making your job harder. Much harder than it needs to be.

    The harder Canonical employees push to get people contributing to development, the harder you are going to see externals push back against the assignment policy, because it its the number one blocker keeping externals from contributing. It really must be fixed.

    This isn’t personal. Don’t take it that way. You just happen to be the pour soul stuck with the job of rallying the troops around a very bad corporate copyright policy. The damage being done by Canonical’s copyright assignment requirement is squarely being inflicted on themselves and the Ubuntu community.


  • Mel

    Is Meego a fork of Gnome? If it is, did it cause a commotion on Gnome as Unity did? Is Canonical doing something wrong by developing their own ideas? Why are some people so mad at Canonical for giving Ubuntu users what they want? Have you heard all the criticism towards Gnome Shell, if so, what are you (or they) doing to make it better? In free software we can modify and redistribute code, isn’t what Gnome stands for?

    Thank’s for reading, you don’t have to answer.

  • Mel

    “But what I don’t get: if you think Mutter has performance issues, why not fix them instead of hopping technologies? This would be to the benefit of other projects such as Gnome Shell and MeeGo Netbook as well”

    I thought the same when Gnome started developing Mutter. Why not good aold Compiz?

  • Mel

    As Jono said, you can install the old desktop and Gnome Shell if you want. If you’ve used Gnome Shell you’ll understand why Canonical is developing Unity as the new Ubuntu Shell.

  • Carson Wright

    I am curious about future compatibility, for instance I don’t use netbook remix, or what ever it is you guys call it now, because I use celtx, and celtx will not run with the global menu. Of course this is a fantastic device for typing while flying and in other situations where a regular laptop might be hard to carry around, so I guess have you all thought about not focusing on graphics applications, and instead focus on the functions a typical netbook might be used for.

  • Mel

    Then Ubuntu is a Debian Fork and Mint an Ubuntu fork etc.

    “Changing that definition in a way that the upstream developers don’t agree with is a de-facto fork.”

    Isn’t Gnome free software? Everyone has the right to modify and redistribute it. If they don’t want that, they should close the source code.

  • Markus

    If Ubuntu keeps all GNOME libraries, why won’t Shell be on the CD? The only reason why Shell wouldn’t fit on the CD would be if Ubuntu drops also essential GNOME libraries. Your Kubuntu colleagues managed to put two entirely different GUIs on a single CD.

  • raj7095

    sorry, but i do not quiet understand what you mean when u say that unity is a 3d experience and gnome is 2d. what EXACTLY is that supposed to mean? btw, so far from all your points, i think i will love the new unity. plus gnome developers are a total bunch o arses anyways, ignoring everything the community says. i hope they go out of business (well not really but still).

  • Sid

    seems like an unnecessary step. Why not have GNOME as default, and Unity as optional.

  • http://seilo.geekyogre.com Seif Lotfy

    libzeitgeist is just a library written by canonical that wraps around zeitgeist! zeitgeist however is not a canonical project.

  • http://ScaroDj.deviantART.com/ ScaroDj

    Well, I would use KDE if the developers would give it the same support (e.g. Wacom drivers. For the love of God, I can’t compile it!) so, I welcome anything that would remove the ugliness from Gnome. It currently is “insultingly un-intrusive” in my opinion.

  • Rehdon

    Firefox is a desktop application, Gnome Shell is the desktop, it’s the most important part of Gnome 3 for the user: can you spot the difference?

  • Oraculous Octopus

    I think it’s unfair to judge Shell based on early alpha states, while it is still undergoing a major UI overhaul. Also current Unity is not the same as we will see on the desktop. I’ll wait for final releases before I judge.

  • http://blog.cberger.net Cyrille Berger

    The difference is that the two KDE sheels (aka Desktop and Netbook) are almost the same code (at the exception of two or three plugins), and configuration files. Meaning, it takes little extra space to add it (around 1.2MB when I try to install plasma-netbook on my debian). While Unity and Gnome Shell have a very different code base, making both of them takes a lot more space (I don’t have digits here).

  • liam


    To all:

    For heaven’s sake, read the Gnome Shell design papers to see where it is going rather than looking at screenshots or listening to hearsay.

  • .

    Oh no, now that you’re not forking gnome what will happen to all your improvements! I love Ubuntu and Unity will be my one true shell!

  • Oraculous Octopus

    “ignoring everything the community says”

    This is easily said. The Unity devs will have to ignore a lot as well if they want to get things done. Things like “will it implement MY mockup?”, “will it be fully customizable?”, “will it have the buttons on the right side?”, etc.

  • Juanjo Marin

    Are you trolling, aren’t you? Ubuntu needs GNOME after all.

  • jospoortvliet

    Sure the MeeGo UI is a fork of GNOME. What else whould it be? You think you can run the normal GNOME desktop on a mobile phone?

  • jospoortvliet

    I should’ve added that yes, it’s a fork, and no, nobody got upset because you can’t run the normal 2-panel GNOME desktop on a mobile phone.

    What did make everyone upset about Maemo however is that initially they didn’t contribute much back to upstream – they forked many libraries, adding bugfixes and performance improvements and features but did nothing to get those back upstream. Once they got a lot of criticism about that they changed their ways and MeeGo (the successor) now has a strict policy of upstreaming everything.

    Moreover – no evil copyright assignments.

    So yes, the situation is rather similar, except that Unity ‘competes’ directly with the normal GNOME UI. I personally have little problem with that but I can imagine the developers working on the current GNOME Shell don’t like this.

    Moreover, you say Unity is FOSS – well, technically it is, but you either give all of your code entirely to Canonical OR you fork it – “getting involved” is quite limited by the code attribution thing. But considering all the negative feedback on that I guess they are aware of it and probably working on it by now. At least I hope so.

  • Doraemon

    Ubuntu was a Debian fork in its first releases; many packages are taken from Debian and adapted to Ubuntu, so you can call Ubuntu a “Debian derivative” or fork if you want.

    I agree with GNOME people in their rant, but I couldn’t name Ubuntu+Unity a GNOME fork, maybe “derivative”; it seems like XFCE with GNOME technologies, a new desktop environment over GNOME foundations. nothing bad, if you see only at this.

    But Canonical is doing a bad movement; with its intentions of “copyrighting” things, Canonical bosses show that they want to make closed derivatives of ope n source technology to earn money, but at the same time lying to the Community with the cool “Ubuntu movement” and all the “free software” marketing stuff. This isn’t bad at all – Canonical needs to earn money, it’s a business -, but I prefer to know the real motivations instead of lies, like Red Hat does without the “coolness” marketing.

    And excuses about Mutter and its deficiencies are lame; instead of working on Compiz – a good software now -, Canonical devs could work in Mutter for solving the youth problems of this WM. Again, copyrights, money and lies are behind this decission.

    Sorry Jono, but I don’t confide on Ubuntu people now. Good luck with your project.

  • jospoortvliet

    Nah, I agree to some extend with Jono that what they do is not fork the code of GNOME. I disagree that it’s not a big deal, the message he tries to get across. It’s probably correct to say they are forking the User Experience but will still be mostly building on a (slowly diverging) common codebase as GNOME. Or on GNOME technology or something.

    However, within GNOME voices come up saying the definition of a GNOME project should be a bit wider than “has to be developed on GNOME infrastructure” and move to something like “has to abide by the GNOME HIG and be FOSS”. If that definition holds, this whole thing might be solved: Unity, as well as Ayatana etc etc WILL BE upstream projects.

  • Christian Jäger

    /Apparantly my previous attempts at commenting here went awry, sorry.

    Jono, how can you claim not to understand why what Canonical is doing is FORKING GNOME?

    You folks are now concentrating on a shell on which Canonical owns the copyright. THIS is the sad thing that sets this apart from projects like MeeGo.

    There’s no going back from here. No code is going to flow upstream, no other vendor will/can use Unity.

    If you guys absolutely must fork our preferred Linux desktop in order to sharpen your profile, please have the decency to call it what it is; don’t pretend not to understand what you are doing.

  • Matthew Garrett

    Yes, Ubuntu’s a Debian fork (I mention this in http://mjg59.livejournal.com/45432.html – over 5 years ago). Like I said, I don’t think forking is inherently a bad thing. What I’m criticising is the attempts to describe a fork as something other than a fork.

  • Matthew Garrett

    Gnome’s two things – a platform and a desktop environment. Canonical are maintaining the platform but forking the desktop environment. Comparisons with Meego are misleading because Meego never claimed to be doing anything other than using some Gnome technologies.

  • Grahame

    You’re taking a community project, sticking your own wrapper on top of it for product differentiation reasons, and locking that wrapper up in copyright assignment – . Not very community minded is it?

  • http://www.verbbusters.com eggdeng

    I think the Gnome devs brought this situation on themselves by refusing to play nice with Compiz, which may well be the favourite window manager of Gnome users. Hope Unity works out.

  • José-Manuel Capella-Pratts


    I don’t think that the GNOME desktop shell should be abandoned. Unity could be a choice (as KDE, Xfce, Lxde, etc.) and not the primary desktop UI.

  • tf

    I am not particularly bothered whether Ubuntu uses Mutter or Compiz, but I am somewhat puzzled by the performance arguments explaining the switch. In all the benchmarks I have seen Mutter and Compiz compositing performance were not far off, certainly not far enough to prefer either over the other because of it. In my experience significant performance degradation in Mutter more often than not comes down to some poorly written code (usually by myself) in the Mutter plugin, and I don’t find the picking / many things on screen as a particularly convincing an explanation for any serious performance hit without seeing some data that can back it up — if you have such data, it would be really appreciated if you could dump it into the clutter/mutter bugzillas for someone to look into.

  • amano

    If people now think that Ubuntu is forking GNOME by shipping another shell, then Novell and Mint did so for a long time with their one panel alternative shell (innovating away the gnome-menus). Where was the outcry back then? And shipping Banshee instead of Rhythmbox? And what’s about Fedora switching from Tomboy to Gnote? Or are all distros forks of GNOME by definition (maybe minus Farsight?)?

  • Oraculous Octopus

    Mutter is just an advancement of good old Metacity. So they did not switch technology.

  • Joeb

    Fork this Fork that. If installing gnome-shell is just a click away away in synaptic, how is gnome being forked? If Ubuntu is having problems fitting everything on a single CD and the option is to remove something like LibreOffice or a UI shell that they don’t intend to be their main one, I personally opt to not ship with the UI shell.

    I add cairo dock and a bunch of other things to my basic Ubuntu install and those UI pieces aren’t on the install CD, either.

    I also remove the panels, no need for them. Does that mean I made my own fork of gnome? I’ve just customized gnome to my liking. They can still be added if I wanted to (or even gnome-shell).

    So, how is it any different if Ubuntu customizes gnome to the way they want? Any gnome components are still just a click or two away — even mutter.

    While I am not necessarily sold on Unity, yet, at least not my experience with the netbook edition, I’m also not sold on gnome-shell.

    Fork this fork that. If you don’t like Ubuntu’s direction with the gnome desktop, then make your own fork and put gnome-shell in as the default.

    It’s arguments like this that keep linux from capturing the minds and hearts of everyday people.

  • yeticannotski

    Copyright assignments is indeed the one critical point Canonical needs to address to dispel any doubts and suspicions.

    Looking forward to the results of Project Harmony.

  • mandy sauls

    Yes ‘Capturing the minds and hearts of everyday people’ I’m as ordinary As you get us. Fast track this IT names forking and Copyright issue and all that is. arth OSS. Unity is a melting pot of diversity which Is a recipe for good stuff; if you get it right everyone enjoys the cake. However Do not expect the masses to be astonished By complex techno-invites it cause confusion and avoidance. Exec Management comes and goes, it is the communities who swings the needs and wants in society. Keep it simple, affordable and working because basic needs are for food, shelter,safety, health and education for the family. Ubuntu in its ‘te’ form is a luxury however IT can make life a lot easier for a greater number of people still. Personalities aside, call an apple n apple and an orange n orange; yes, both fruit. We prefer what gives us the greatest enjoyment at an affordable price. Nothing is ever totally free, we have to pay for items, goods and services. Moreover quality should not always have to be expensive therefore access and affordability is a priority for us everyday folk. Good luck to the Document Foundation, the Harmony Project, Natty Narwhal — Unity for Ubuntu and the skipper Canonical.

  • http://elavdeveloper.wordpress.com/2010/11/01/%c2%bfque-es-y-que-no-es-unity/ ¿Que es y que no es Unity? « Elavdeveloper

    […] Bacon ha publicado en su blog algunas de las características que se avecinan en Unity para la versión 11.04 de […]

  • AJAY

    Hi, myself Ajay from India. I have been using ubuntu science 2007(ubuntu 7.10). I love ubuntu more than Windows. It is also best Linux destro. I like it’s good look, performance, availability of packages and of course because it is free(LOL). Please don’t change things which are very good at their place like open office. Improve it where it lacks like graphics card support area, indexing and searching within file system,and don’t make mistakes like ubuntu 10.04 contains order alsa audio than ubuntu 9.10(due to this I suffered a lot). I also want to contribute in wallpaper designing.

    Best wishes for Next Ubuntu “Unity”. :)

  • Markus

    SUSE’s Slab did indeed cause outcry even though it was just a single new applet for GNOME’s panel. Compiz was originally also a Novell project that almost died because of corporate politics.

    Gnote, btw, is a GNOME project.

  • Markus

    According to Canonical both Shell and Unity also share much code. Canonical could kick Mono and then there’s enough space for all GNOME GUIs.

  • Ambleston Dack

    A good article with some good clarification points. I think I’ll wait and see before I make any serious comment.

    Jono why are you still promoting 10.04 when 10.10 is out?

  • Michael Gauthier

    With the current GNOME panel interface supported on some hardware and Unity supported on other hardware, I’m worried the documentation will suffer.

    Lots of the documentation will need to be explained twice: here’s how you do it in Unity, here’s how you do it in ‘legacy’ mode.

    I think this will cause confusion among new users, and a create a poorer user experience.

  • nona
    Since the announcement there has been a lot of commentary and articles about the decision, mostly of the view of “if you folks can pull this off, this will be awesome“.

    Well, that’s not exactly my impression – but then maybe you read more ubuntu-cheerleader blogs than me.

    I don’t like the spin – I totally understand why you’d want to go in a certain direction. I even really like the fact that you’re spending a lot of time in rethinking the user experience. I’m one of those people that thinks choice isn’t always good (less is more), and that it’s better to more or less force or at least encourage (with well thought out defaults) users towards certain settings.

    But: – to claim it’s not a clear departure from Gnome’s default desktop environment (a fork), is just misleading. Like mjg59 said: forking is totally OK! Just be honest/clear about it.

    • certain things should really have been discussed and developed upstream – app indicators come to mind. I hope in general more things will flow to upstream (papercuts, any global menu changes, etc)

    • the copyright assignment gets in the way, but you know that. Everything is still free software, and I’m A-OK with it as a user. It just limits contributions (I personally wouldn’t – I remember considering adding a feature for Upstart, but I never did, in part because of the CA. Switched to systemd now).

  • Rehdon

    “Well, that’s not exactly my impression – but then maybe you read more ubuntu-cheerleader blogs than me.”

    Exactly. Just stumbled on this Phoronix page (http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=ODcxNg) to read the following:

    “Of the three pages of comments (and it continues to grow) within our forums, there isn’t anyone that’s actually happy to see Unity coming to the Ubuntu Desktop rather than the GNOME 3.0 Shell. […] It’s just not within our forums where users are feeling unhappy, but there’s anti-Unity sentiment at most places today discussing this major Ubuntu 11.04 announcement.”

    TBH most of those comments are surely due to the fact that people are thinking of the current Unity implementation, but still …

    “I don’t like the spin”

    Exactly. That’s what scaring me, the microsoftish “we do it because are customers are asking to do it” (when??? where???) which could be used to justify pretty much any decision, and simply isn’t true.

    I think there are legitimate technical reasons to be skeptical about Gnome Shell (I am too), but I’m wondering about the mix: % of “we need a better shell” compared to % of “we need to be different”. And I have a feeling they don’t want to use the ‘f’ word just because of the negative pr fallout. Marketing reasons again. Not the best basis for planning Ubuntu development IMHO.

    Anyway, time will tell.


  • http://blogubuntu.com/aclaraciones-sobre-la-polemica-unity-gnome/ Aclaraciones sobre la polémica Unity-GNOME

    […] bacon, Ubuntu Community Manager en Canonical, lo ha aclarado en su blog, del que extraemos las puntos principales que aclaran esta […]

  • http://www.chimerarevo.com/2010/11/02/canonical-assicura-ubuntu-11-04-natty-girera-anche-su-computer-un-po-vecchiotti/ Canonical assicura: Ubuntu 11.04 Natty girerà anche su computer un pò vecchiotti – Chimera Revo

    […] GNOME shell! Vi lascio, qui in basso, il link alla nota di Bacon. E voi…cosa ne pensate? Jono Bacon -Unity: Some further Clarification Points Articoli CorrelatiNovità sulle applicazioni di default in Ubuntu 11.04 Natty NarwhalI […]

  • http://kaizer.se ulrik

    While single-source controlled free software certainly does scare away other commercial linux interests, you’re still only repeating a hyperbole. Any single user or company may fork Unity and do with it as they please, as usual.

  • http://ubuntu4beginners.wordpress.com/ Maxx

    Or have the standard CD with Unity on it as well as shipping a DVD with GNOME Shell and maybe a few other extras.

  • Claudio

    I’d like one more clarification: will we have decent system sounds and a logout sound at last?

  • Christian Jäger

    Also noteworthy: At this July’s GUADEC thoughts were presented to brand a future GNOME 4 ‘GNOME OS’, and make it integrated experience much like MeeGo. One reason behind this would be to fight the fragmentation of the GNOME desktop environment resulting from various vendors’ efforts to set themselves apart from the competition. This clearly was directed at Ubuntu.

    Is it a coincidence that just 3 months later Canonical/Ubuntu comes out with a plan to default to it’s very own desktop UI?

    I rather suspect that this move by Canonical was designed to sabotage the GNOME communities efforts to strengthen their position vs. distributions.

    And also, if Canonical doesn’t manage to undermine the GNOME community’s unity (pun intended), their Ubuntu would be a full-fledged fork of GNOME at the latest if GNOME OS really materialises.

  • http://njpatel.blogspot.com Neil Jagdish Patel

    Hey tf (long time no speak :). It really depends on what card + drivers your using. On nvidia it’s pretty good (though still not as good as Compiz, especially if you have a large monitor). On Intel and Ati, especially on netbooks, we just weren’t seeing good performance or power usage at all.

    As I mentioned, I just think we use it differently than Shell and have different expectations. For what we use it for, Compiz works better for us and for delivering on the Desktop (with large displays and larger multi-monitor setups), we’re more comfortable with Compiz.

    Re: the pick. Again, it depends on how you were using it and how much is being painted on the screen. We could easily get it up to 40-50% CPU on Intel while moving mouse due to how much we had on screen, with 6-7% at idle with no animations or background processes. It’s also just slow doing glReadPixels every mouse move. I’ve raised this before on #clutter and I think that even Litl are using our geometry-picking patch (or maybe the other one that was on the bugzilla). Regards to data, a lot of it is in bugs and through getting users to report, but I’ll try and get into a form that would be useful to you, ideally with a test case.

    I think it’s important to remember that we’ve also moved because we want to have much more control over the rendering than what is possible with Clutter. Especially with the enhanced fallbacks and no-shader, ARB shader and GLSL shader capabilities, to try and get it running on as many systems as possible.

  • raj7095

    well, ofcourse ubuntu needs gnome. but what my point is that the full gnome desktop isn’t paying attention to the huge amount of people that want to stick with the current gnome2 interface. they aren’t giving any choice in terms of the interface itself. sure, gnome is great, but they really need to give people an option to stick to their current looks for gnome3. feel free to correct me as i do not have the whole info on this situation, i just heard about it in the community forums. btw, the last two sentences were just jokes, dont take those seriously.

  • raj7095

    because of the gnome-shell. the default gnome interface is going to change to something like this: http://images.maketecheasier.com/2009/09/gnome-shell-multi-desktop.jpg also because gnome-shell can’t include certain features that canonical wants to be included in ubuntu.

  • some-lil-kid

    good point. how are we going to stick with other linux distros if ubuntu has its own unique interface?

  • some-lil-kid

    well, good thing compiz survived. if not, i wouldnt be able to show off my desktop to the rest of the people :p

  • some-lil-kid

    libreoffice IS openoffice with just a few changes which aren’t really noticable by a normal user.

  • http://gnulinx.site11.com/%c2%bfcamina-ubuntu-hacia-el-abismo.html ¿Camina Ubuntu hacia el abismo? | GnuLinx – Tips y cosas de linux

    […] unisono: CAN YOU HEAR US NOW, CANONICAL? (¿Puedes oirnos ahora, Canonical?) Fuente: http://www.jonobacon.org/ http://eyeonlinux.com/ http://www.jonobacon.org/2010/10/25/ubuntu-11-04-to-ship-unity/ […]

  • Chris Gonnerman

    A “fork” is when a project is actually split. Unity runs on top of the standard GNOME dependencies; it won’t require a change to them, as I understand it. So it’s not a fork as such. GNOME can develop as they see fit, and Ubuntu will be “downstream” getting those developments.

    To be a fork, Canonical would have to build a customized copy of pretty much the whole GNOME environment, which would be separate from the standard GNOME packages and thus not subject to the same patches and updates. They’d have to be crazy to do that… and I don’t think they are that kind of crazy.

  • Alberto

    Sorry, I didnt had time to read the 108 replies so far…

    Jono you mention that if the computer hardware cannot support unity it will then use the normal gnome shell that we’re used to, but you also say that the normal gnome shell wont ship on the CD.

    How is this decision made? I mean, once I pop the liveCD, will it check for 3D capabilities and then download the 2D interface for those that do not have the capabilities?

    What if these users do not have internet connection? (as Im figuring it out that if hardware doesnt support unity it will download the gnome shell during the install process) How can they get to the gnome shell without internet?

    I would suggest to rather leave a package out and make space for the gnome shell in CD, so that these users are not left behind.

  • Greg Wilson

    I have been using Ubuntu off and on since 6.04 and switched over permanently sine 10.04 and love it. I have not used Unity but feel that I am pretty open minded and will at least give it a fair trial before I have an opinion one way or the other on it. One thing that I am wondering though is that I use compiz fusion for the 3d desktop cube. (Love showing that off to my friends) and am wondering if this will still work with Unity?

  • yman

    I think that refers only to the netbook, as Mr. Shuttleworth said that it doesn’t make sense to have Global Menu on a large display like that of a desktop.

  • yman

    A Desktop Environment is AFAIK made of 4 components that are integrated with each other: a Window Manager, a Graphical Shell, Applications, and a development platform/shared technologies/toolkits. Ubuntu first forked the DE known as GNOME when they added Compiz to the default install. Now they are merely widening the gap.

    As far as forking the existing software that is a part of the GNOME project, Canonical/Ubuntu has done no such thing. This is no different than any other change in the default app selection, and doesn’t fragment the platform, thus no harm, only healthy competition.

  • yman

    The desktop version will use the same underlying technology but have a different user interface, one which is more suitable for the desktop.

  • yman

    He was talking about using GNOME-Panel, not GNOME Shell. GNOME-Panel is what Ubuntu Desktop Edition is using right now.

  • http://podcast.ubuntu-uk.org/2010/11/10/s03e20-the-midnight-flyer-mp3-low/ S03E20 – The Midnight Flyer – MP3 LOW | Ubuntu Podcast from the UK LoCo team

    […] Bacon Unites! […]

  • http://podcast.ubuntu-uk.org/2010/11/10/s03e20-the-midnight-flyer-mp3-high/ S03E20 – The Midnight Flyer – MP3 HIGH | Ubuntu Podcast from the UK LoCo team

    […] Bacon Unites! […]

  • http://podcast.ubuntu-uk.org/2010/11/10/s03e20-the-midnight-flyer/ S03E20 – The Midnight Flyer | Ubuntu Podcast from the UK LoCo team

    […] Bacon Unites! […]

  • http://podcast.ubuntu-uk.org/2010/11/10/s03e20-the-midnight-flyer-ogg-high/ S03E20 – The Midnight Flyer – OGG HIGH | Ubuntu Podcast from the UK LoCo team

    […] Bacon Unites! […]

  • http://wp.me/50WQ Mariano Pavone

    I can’t understand why some people don’t like Canonical to use Unity instead of Gnome Shell. If Unity gets to be better than Gnome Shell then we all win. If it doesn’t then we use something else.

    There are lots of FLOSS projects that overlap like OpenOffice/KOffice/GnomeOffice and KDE/Gnome.

    Canonical needs to be “special”, not just another Linux distro or Gnome distro. If it weren’t “special” why would anyone use it instead of the other distros?

    I don’t see anyone complaining about Jolicloud forking gnome. Or android forking anything (as they don’t use Xorg server, for example).

  • http://afto22.com/reasons-why-i-love-my-desktop/7902/ Reasons Why I Love My Desktop  | After Today News

    […] A&#1109 many &#959f you know, Unity w&#1110ll be switched on by default in Ubuntu 11.04, &#1072nd th&#1077 performance &#1072nd accessibility issues are currently being tended to. for more details see this blog post. […]

  • http://www.bing.com/ Suzy

    I’m not easily impressed. . . but that’s ipmessring me! :)

  • http://www.snippetme.com Kary Ockerman

    Have you ever thought about creating an ebook or guest authoring on other sites? I have a blog based upon on the same ideas you discuss and would love to have you share some stories/information. I know my subscribers would value your work. If you are even remotely interested, feel free to send me an email.