For instance, Troy Unrau noted that "it got to the point where a simple KDE 'Hello, World!' application would ship 200kb of build system. This complexity made entry into the KDE programming world somewhat daunting for new programmers, and the build system for the core components of KDE was only really understood by a select handful of individuals." About the same time, GNOME developers started complaining about the limitations of the GTK+ toolkit with which the desktop is built, and looking for ways around those limitations.
In 2007, Wingo summed up the state of GNOME by saying, "we largely achieved what we set out to achieve, insofar as it was possible. Now our hands are full with dealing with entropic decay. . .it does not seem to me that GNOME is on a healthy evolutionary track. By that I mean to say that there is no way there from here, if 'there' is universal use of free software, and 'here' is our existing GNOME software stack."
Exactly the same thing could be said about KDE. Although fine-tuning for usability was still needed, both desktops had more or less caught up with their proprietary rivals, leaving them with no new goals beyond perfecting what already existed.
Now, in 2009, KDE has a new toolkit in QT 4.4, a new build system, a new multimedia system, a new extensible workspace, SVG graphics on the desktop, and the foundations for a semantic desktop. In addition, it has integrated widgets and applets so that they are usable on both the panel and the desktop, improved accessibility options, simplified configuration by making the process more visual, overhauled all its major applications, and created a new default look that compares favorably with any desktop you could name. What's more, it has accomplished these things while actually improving speed, because it started fresh.
In comparison, what has GNOME offered in the last two years? A move away from Bonobo component model to the D-Bus communication system (which is inspired by KDE's DCOP), an overhaul of notifications to make them less obtrusive, plans for transforming GTK+ and maturing infrastructure such as PackageKit, PolicyKit and Vala -- and relatively little else, and even less that is visible to the user.
You can see the differences in the current states of the two desktops from the reviews. Reviews about KDE are not always positive, but they are about large issues and shifts in the desktop paradigm. Reading them, you cannot help but come away with the impression that KDE developers are headed in a definite direction, even if you disagree with some or all of the details.
By comparison, reviews of new GNOME releases are a description of a random collection of applications. The reviews might as well be written in bullet points (and often they are), because no unified vision seems to underlie the selection of new applications. Or, if there is a vision, it is not being communicated to users. The impression is that GNOME has become like the Big Three Automakers, making minor changes to the body and upholstery, while the important innovations are being introduced by their rivals.
Of course, this situation won't last. As the KDE 4 series of releases matures, much of the excitement over them will diminish. Moreover, should the GNOME project carry out its plans, the 2.30 release should generate its own excitement when released a year from now.
But that's the point: by the time GNOME is modernized, KDE will have had two years to perfect the 4.x releases. And, even when GNOME 2.3 finally arrives, it sounds like more of an overhaul than a complete rewriting, which makes its competitiveness questionable.
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