Short bio: Computer Scientist, FOSS supporter (read more)
Tux Machines (TM)-specific
If you want a GNOME 2-like desktop, the leading contenders are both developed by Linux Mint. Users can choose between Cinnamon, which is built on top of GNOME 3, and Mate, a direct fork of GNOME 2.
Mate and Cinnamon are the default alternatives offered in Linux Mint 14, the current release. Both are highly successful attempts to provide a GNOME 2-like desktop in response to widespread user dissatisfaction with GNOME 3 and Ubuntu's Unity.
Among experienced users, the two interfaces appear to have been instant successes.