Platform

by havoc

Mikael,
I would have said exactly the opposite. You can build all the platform
you want and nobody is going to care. What they care about is
apps. Good apps will drag along the worst platform imaginable. In
fact, the major apps mostly have lame custom cross-platform toolkits
as their platform, and nobody cares. GTK+ blows many of these toolkits
out of the water but it does not matter.

My suggestion for giving GNOME a jolt would be to win with the
apps. Make Evolution really fantastic, instead of
limping-along-in-danger-of-being-Thunderbirded. Support great apps
like Epiphany and Evince. Get GNOME Office in the game so it has a
chance in hell. Invent great new kinds of app. Use a distinctive
aspect of the GNOME platform (it’s willing to diverge from Windows) to
do interesting things in the apps and shared among
apps. Undiplomatically: the last thing I’d do is start the
my-platform-is-so-cool technowanking. It’s all about what you can do
for end users.

GNOME is a perfectly good desktop environment and I think is going
along fine as such. But desktop environments aren’t that
exciting
. Apps are exciting. Heck, read the metacity README. It’s
all about the virtues of boring.

Note, by “apps” I really mean “useful end-user functionality” and the
desktop environment could include that functionality (effectively
becoming a single integrated app). But our current structure tends to
put everything useful in standalone apps.

I’m not crying “the sky is falling” here since I think good apps exist
for Linux, they just aren’t being built within GNOME. What I’m saying
is that if we want GNOME to be where the excitement is, then
it’s about apps.

If you don’t build the apps you can’t really change anything
interesting about the platform. You can only write a platform that can
be a backend for XUL, VCL, SWT, WINE, etc. since the apps use those
APIs.

The value of centering the excitement around GNOME would be to create
a more integrated, exciting, innovative/nimble app suite. The downside
of course is that it’s so much more work than just using the
cross-platform apps.

I have many more thoughts here, I guess, but it gets hard for me to
talk without getting Slashdotted and causing
confusion/misunderstanding among the vast majority of readers who lack
context. I’m reluctant to post even this much… I’m sure I already
have some choice quotable that everyone will misunderstand.

(This post was originally found at http://log.ometer.com/2005-05.html#1)

My Twitter account is @havocp.
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