In doing so, it seems the devs have adopted the Apple approach; dictatorial design. In many respects this is a good thing. It gives them the good sense to say "no" to certain proposals; I'm sure there are active GNOME contributors who would prefer Nautilus to have five customizable toolbars, and the system menubar to have a mind-boggling array of system stats. No.
Obviously, haters gonna hate. People who get a kick out of relentlessly customizing their desktop environment will no longer feel welcome. GNOME sold out, it went mainstream, whatever. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.
This is a victory for ordinary users. This is giving the developers focus. A lot of user suggestions are just pointless distractions from the core goal, which is apparently to imitate OS X as much as possible without being called on it.
But if you take this path, you better ensure that your UX is rock-solid and will satisfy the majority of your users (what Apple does).
I believe that the Gnome User Experience (interaction and visual) is poorly made (I have the feeling that most of the decisions here have not been made by UX people, and have not been seriously backed by user studies - but I'd be glad to be proved otherwise).
I also believe that Gnome is targeting an audience they don't have, leaving their current (potential) audience frustrated.
If Gnome doesn't have the resources to do proper UX design, the answer is NOT to force incomplete/broken UX on users. It's to leave options open for others to fix the UX as needed.
Design is about making choices, but if you don't have the resources to find/make the best choice at least allow the end user to make the choice they prefer instead.
What I find amusing though, is that even OSX allows more customization than Unity/Gnome. In OSX I can turn off backlight dimming on battery, I can move the dock to different sides of the screen (essential for multi-monitor setups), and I can also tweak other things via plists. There is also more than one screensaver.
Your goal should never be to innovate, it should be to improve. Yes, you improve by innovating but you should remember the goal is to improve, not make something new for new's sake.
Also it is no wonder they are understaffed, they are alienating their user base which is from where they get their developers...
Me, I like system notification areas that apps other than two or three 'official' gnome apps can use. I like to put my toolbars and menus in the place I want to have them. I don't know why you would consider this 'relentless customisation'.
Gnome hasn't sold out or gone mainstream, quite the opposite - they are losing people in droves, chasing some dream of going mainstream but actually slowly sinking into obscurity.
Perhaps you don't realize the amount of work it represents to build a consistent and solid user experience while officially supporting letting the user choose where to place its notifications, toolbars, etc, and never break this customizability afterwards.
I know, I know, I'm somehow objectively wrong for wanting this, which is fine if that's what you want to think. Like many others I left for XFCE a long time ago.
--edit-- fixed typo
The bad thing about it is the attitude, that users are being told they're wrong (constantly) and that the comparatively well-loved GNOME 2 was effectively declared dead and deprecated from day 1, instead of being respectfully handed off to the community or a maintenance team. Hell, G3 almost ought to have been called something else, and run separately. It's not the same thing.
You should always provide a great default solution and let the user customize it if he wants to. Once there is ANY user customization, the entire user experience changes. If you want the UX to be ALWAYS the same, you can't let people change stuff.
The problem is, this is contrary to everything done before. I for instance, use Growl on OSX and customized it to my needs. The UX is the best one for me! It's not because Growl devs predicted that. They just let me CHOOSE after providing a great UX already by default.
OS X is a pretty good example of how an operating system can be simple enough for regular users to use but still have advanced options that power users and technical users require. I understand why they're attempting to copy it, but I don't think they're going about it in the right way.
I'm fairly technical and I'm not leaving Gnome. There was a time I spent hours downloading themes, sometimes building my own from them, so that I'd have the "perfect" desktop, but not anymore. The most time I lost in the last 6 months was tweaking my init.el file so my Emacs would start with everything I need to work comfortably. I also built a console font so my terminals and text editors would mitigate my 3278 nostalgia (https://github.com/rbanffy/3270font).
A theme is just a theme. We don't have to fight much over it.
API breakage, OTOH, is a problem. Anyone who develops for Gnome should have a continuous testing install somewhere running tests against the latest master branch to prevent nasty surprises down the road. Also, people who develop apps and feel Gnome is going in the wrong direction should get involved in Gnome development. App (and theme) developers are the users of Gnome's APIs much like I am a Firefox user. If it "feels wrong", I'll get in touch with the developers and try to help fixing it. Ranting is not going to help.
I've also spoken to a few of the developers of the core Gnome applications and morale, from what I've seen, seems to be pretty low with some groups of developers simply refusing to implement changes planned by the design team. I'm very concerned about the project - I think the new vision will lose them both users and developers, at a time when they need them more than ever.
This design-development schism seems bad indeed. Maybe Gnome lacks a decent leadership, one that lets it be Gnone rather than Windows (Mono, seriously?) or OSX. But then we'd have to know what it is to be Gnome. I kind of like Gnome Shell and Unity and lack of themes means I spend less time customizing my machine and more time working, but I'm not a typical Linux user anyway. What worries me the most is not product quality, but all this toxicity floating around.
Funny, because I see OS X as an example of how an OS can become simpler by removing the advanced options that power users and technical users require.
But by "options" I mean more than just config options. It includes features as well..
What kind of advanced options is OS X lacking?
- General lack of configureability. I'm used to things like fluxbox and kde where "everything" can be configured. (Don't knock it til you try it ;) Especially keyboard shortcuts for launching stuff, expanding windows, minimizing windows etc..
- The window handling is terrible. Really, it is.. Can't maximize? Can't easily switch between two firefox windows? I used to think it was because I didn't know how to do it, so I asked and watched a few OSX users. But they just move windows around. I'm not going to handle 15 windows like that. Even if osx finally got virtual desktops (?).
- Better terminal (both the gnome one and the kde one are so far ahead, at least at first look)
- Unix/linux CLI programs that I've gotten used to being there by default. Also, I'm sure there are programs I use that simply doesn't run on OSX (not really experinced it, but it seems likely ;)
Also, the broader issue of customizability. Apple does a lot of things "right", but not everything. And while the "walled garden" do bring some advantages, its restrictiveness is a real pain when you're used to choose. It's impossible to do one size fits all in computing, you end up with something compromised, more tailored towards computer users quite different than myself.
Removing customization options and features that are not seen to be necessary is an inevitable part of the transition to this philosophy.
GNOME is positioning itself as a more simple, user-friendly desktop environment. Quite frankly, if total customization is your thing, there are plenty of other options available to you.
Apple could imitate a fair bit too. For instance, I'd like the OS X 10.6 Finder to be as useable as the Nautilus file manager that shipped with Ubuntu's Gnome 2 in 2010.
The version of Nautilus shipping with GNOME 3 is obviously very heavily inspired by this version of Finder.
The only thing I find myself missing is a way to move up the file-structure without having to switch to the list-view when you've opened a folder without actually navigating your way to it through Finder. Essentially, the "Back"-arrow would take you to the parent folder even if you didn't navigate from it.
Isn't that just Cmd+Up?
Oh the glorious day when I found out about this..
So great, you say, not being self-centric but user-centric. That works if you are employed to create a product, but how well will it work for open source. How will they ever gain developers?