Monday, March 11, 2013

Why Ubuntu abandoing Wayland is a good thing

Once upon a time there was a display server called X.  It was a good display server for Unix/Linux and it was pretty powerful and forward thinking. People contributed to it, they patched it, and things around X moved pretty fast. But then something happened. X stagnated and started to show its age. Indeed the software was 25 years old and, in technology time, that's like being from another century.  It was time to move forward but it seemed to everyone that X just didn't know how.

One day, a smart group of developers decided to do something about the problems with X. Not by jumping in and contributing code to bring the software up to date and not even by forking it to create a 'modern X' derivative. No, these developers decided it was time for something completely new. They coded and coded and coded some more and birthed a promising new project called Wayland.

Wayland was an exciting project. Backed by the promise of 'a better display served that maintains some compatibility with X' the project got some of the major Linux distributions like Ubuntu behind it. In fact, the Ubuntu team was so excited about it that they even committed to use Wayland in place of X within a year.

As you probably already know, this is where things took a turn for the worse. The development of Wayland was almost as slow as the development going on with X. But the difference was that X is a functioning display server while Wayland was struggling to get there. It was not a pretty site.

Fast forward almost three years after that Ubuntu announcement (and five years since the initial Wayland release) and things are in a rather horrible state. How horrible you ask? So horrible that one of the 'goals' of Wayland is to allow windows to be minimized and maximized. Yeah, that horrible.

Needless to say, the distro makers weren't happy and, recently, Ubuntu delivered a major blow to confidence in Wayland by announcing that they were going to write their own display server called Mir. Mir is supposed to be everything Ubuntu was hoping Wayland would be except it's probably actually going to be usable and, of course, it's going to be open source so anyone who wants it can use it in their distro.

The announcement from Canonical (the corporate sponsor and caretaker of Ubuntu) was met with mixed reactions within the community. Some people praised it while other people even questions if, with this latest departure from the mainstream, Ubuntu could even be considered a Linux distribution anymore.

It definitely goes without saying that Canonical has some lofty goals for Ubuntu. The envision a future where desktop, living room, phone, and tablet, all converge into a cohesive union all running Ubuntu. It's ambitious, a little bit wild and crazy, and something that only a company like Canonical could pull off. If they pull it off. And I believe they will.

I've been a harsh critic of Ubuntu in the past. When they ditched GNOME in favor of their Unity desktop while almost the entire community screamed about it, I thought it was the most boneheaded move ever made by the company. So much did I hate Unity that I switched to XUbuntu and still use it to this day. When they announced Ubuntu TV right after a goal of 400 million desktops, I thought they were crazy and spreading themselves too thin. But, you know what? They seem to be doing it. Slowly but surely, Ubuntu is taking over the world. It's not just on servers and a few desktops anymore. Major players like Valve are taking notice and bring very cool stuff the the distro. Ubuntu has captured a segment of the market and it doesn't seem to be letting go anytime soon.

So to those of you who are whining about the distro ditching Wayland and writing their own display server, get a grip. Ubuntu wants to take over the wold and they aren't going to do that by waiting years while Wayland fights to have the ability to minimize and maximize desktop windows. They need to move fast and this is what they're doing.

We in the Linux community often complain about being ignored. Big software and hardware vendors pass us up because of market share is so small. Ubuntu is changing that. Ubuntu is making a path for those vendors that leads right to our desktops, laptops, phones, and tablets. What Ubuntu is doing is making the entire Linux ecosystem a better place and our lives as users a lot easier.  Unfortunately, that's going to come with a little pain and a little disruption.

Me, for the most part, am ready for it. I want to see Linux succeed. I want to see it grow. I want to see Ubuntu take over the world then duke it out for first place with other distributions. But that can only happen if we all work together and stop the silly whining about the projects forward motion. Don't like it? Then feel free to roll your own distro and use Wayland. No problem. But your distro won't be first or second place. Your distro won't take over the world.

Ubuntu is on fire right now. And I think it's time we stand behind it and keep doing everything we can to make sure that fire goes out. To misquote a former President of the United States:

"You're either with us or you're with Rebecca Black Linux".

And trust me, you don't want to be on the side of Rebecca Black Linux.


Owais Lone said...


Cyber Killer said...

You are missing the point. They should commit to writing Wayland more, if they found it was developing too slow. Instead they are now on the road of making a huge divide in the whole GNU/Linux world. It's already bad as software companies are posting some debs for ubuntu and say they "support linux", which is a load of bs. Now we will get a fight over GPU manufacturers over which display server they will support.

They are standing against everything that the FLOSS community is doing, just for the sake of being different. Ubuntu should die horribly, and by the looks of things they are on that road right now.

If Canonical wanted to have their completely own OS and not care what anybody says, they should start from BSD, like crApple.

Dang Ren Bo said...

Cyber Killer, the FOSS community is all about scratching your own itch, which they are doing. Mir will be FOSS and people can use or fork it as they see fit.

linuxpoet said...

Cyber Killer said, "They should commit to writing Waylan more.." Are you kidding me? They have absolutely zero obligation to that project. Canonical is free to do what they wish, you know "FREEDOM" which is what Open Source is all about....