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GNOME needs to get its act together

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As the year ends, it is fair to say there have been many free and open source software organisations that have made rapid strides, not merely in 2009 but right through the noughties. But one organisation badly needs to get its act together.

That organisation is the GNOME desktop project and its foundation. At the end of 2009, it is still struggling and trying very hard to convince itself that its lack of a sense of identity derives from wrong perceptions rather than fundamental internal issues.

This has been illustrated most recently in the way the GNOME members reacted to the publication of news that one of its senior developers had called for a re-evaluation of its links to the GNU Project.

To understand the significance of these links, one must go back to 1997 when GNOME was set up by Miguel de Icaza and Federico Mena Quintero. The only rationale that they had for setting up a project to create a second desktop environment for a small number of users - KDE was a thriving desktop by then but it used a non-free library for development - was that it would be totally free.

GNOME was set up under the aegis of the GNU Project. The name says it all: the GNU Network Object Model Environment.

For GNOME to raise the topic of cutting its ties from the organisation that gave it its raison d'etre is certainly worthy of note.

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