You may remember Linus Torvald's famous complaint seven years ago:
This "users are idiots, and are confused by functionality" mentality of Gnome is a disease. If you think your users are idiots, only idiots will use it. I don't use Gnome, because in striving to be simple, it has long since reached the point where it simply doesn't do what I need it to do.
Torvalds was complaining that, in the effort to provide streamlined, polished applications, GNOME and many of its core applications were removing functionality from the graphical interface.
Torvalds himself has flip-flopped on his choice of desktop environments several times since making this remark. However, if you compare almost any GNOME core application with its KDE equivalent, his remark is -- if anything -- even truer than when he made it.
Whether you're comparing GNOME's Banshee music player to KDE's Amarok, Brasero to K3B, or Shotwell to digiKam, the tendency is unmistakable. On the one hand, in all of the GNOME applications, at best beginner to intermediate functionality is supported. On the other hand, in all the KDE applications, functionality exists for every level of user, including the advanced.
This tendency might appeal to users who are first learning an application. However, it can quickly become frustrating as users want to do increasingly more complex tasks or if problems emerge. Like zombies trying to cope with the modern world, in such cases, applications designed for GNOME 2 often lack the necessary capacity.
Such shortcomings tend to be overlooked when people look back at GNOME 2. For many users, GNOME 2 has the advantage of familiarity, and they have long ago learned to overlook such shortcomings -- especially when viewing it through a lens of nostalgia.
Yet the fact remains: GNOME project developers were not merely justifying their wish to do something new when they began working on GNOME 3. GNOME 2 was approaching the end of its natural life span, and keeping it on life support -- let alone keeping it healthy -- would have required more and more work with every passing year.
Increasingly, many parts of GNOME 2 would have had to be removed and replaced with ideas transplanted from other sources.
The only trouble is, developing GNOME 3 has proved as difficult as keeping GNOME 2 on life support. GNOME 3 exaggerates the design philosophy that began in GNOME 2, and introduces questionable assumptions of its own.
Under the circumstances, reacting to GNOME 3 by retreating to GNOME 2 is understandable. However, whether it is advisable is another matter. As Linux Mint's Cinnamon has already started to show, GNOME 2 requires extensive surgery after a year of neglect, and the effort is not trivial.
In the long run, the wiser strategy may have been to let GNOME 2 rot in peace.