But the difference is that while KDE discussed the problem, and gradually introduced the features that users demanded, GNOME was publicly silent for eighteen months. Even then, the introduction of extensions was made without any acknowledgment of complaints.
A plausible reason for this silence might have reconciled users, but at this point perceptions have hardened. One response to the article alleging GNOME's recovery spoke for many when it claimed that GNOME's attitude "still seems to [be] the I-am-the-star-My-way-or-the-highway philosophy, rather than being an inconspicuous component in the background ready to do what you tell it to do."
In many circles, GNOME is simply not trusted. More -- it is viewed as having betrayed users with the changes made in GNOME 3. Such perceptions may not be entirely fair, but they, rather any technical issue, appear to be the major obstacle to GNOME's return to popularity.
Yet even now, GNOME seems to have trouble addressing its image problem at all, much less with candor. Outsiders who point out the problem are likely to be attacked, and the issues they raise are seldom debated.
Similarly, intermittent efforts to market GNOME out of the problem tend to be amateur's attempts to imitate a slick campaign -- an approach that only reinforces the appearance of a lack of engagement.
Instead, rather desperate proofs are seized upon as proof that nothing is really wrong. Much is made, for example, of Debian and SUSE defaulting to GNOME -- despite the fact that the variety of desktops that both carry mean that the default has only limited weight.
Other elements of GNOME are aware of the decline, but few, if any, view it as an image problem. In the last year, GNOME's Marketing Team appears to have been replaced by the Engagement Team, which produces marketing collateral, but produces diffuse material and never seems to consider the central image that is being conveyed.
In the same way, this years' candidates for GNOME's advisory board are aware of the need to regain lost revenue. But I could not find any candidate who discusses the problem in terms of image. Nor has any hint of the topic appeared in the minutes of board meetings during the past year. Yet probably no topic could be more important.
Whether GNOME could regain its former position is difficult to say under the best of circumstances. However, until GNOME faces the unpleasant fact that it needs to recognize what has happened and rebuild trust, any major increase in its popularity seems unlikely.
So long as the project pretends that everything is business as usual, the most it is likely to do stave off further decline. To do more would require a degree of self-analysis that, so far, GNOME shows few signs of attempting.
Also see: Why I Switched to GNOME