Opinion: All Roads Lead to Freedesktop.org
Hold onto your seats. Sri Ramkrishna gives his opinions on the current state of how open your desktop really is.
“This is the year of the desktop” people say. From blogs, to magazines, to commercial companies around the world. There is a buzz around the desktop for GNU/Linux. Indeed it’s an exciting time to be hacking on the desktop. The most important part of the desktop is not GNOME, KDE or some of the other desktop projects out there. It’s freedesktop.org.
Freedesktop.org is an umbrella project that hosts desktop technologies that desktops can choose to standardized on. Freedesktop will host any project even competing ones letting technical merits decide which one works best.
Freedesktop.org hosts projects like the Xorg X server, HAL (Hardware Abstraction Layer), and various other projects that deal with infrastructure pieces. More importantly, freedesktop.org also hosts specifications that desktops can standardized on. Standards like the notification area is a great way to start integrating commonality between the desktop projects and allow developers to write applications that works well on any desktop. It also provides a desktop neutral forum to discuss the technical merits of any number of featured technologies.
For instance, Novell employees recently released a wireless network tool that allows people to know what wireless networks are available. They used the notification area in order to create the same interface across KDE and GNOME. Disregarding the fact that it used the notification area improperly; it illustrates how interoperbility works beautifully through the use of standards that the freedesktop.org project provides. Skype is another example of an application written in one toolkit that works well on any desktop.
I had the opportunity to talk to various software developers from all walks of life at the O’Reilly Open Source Convention in Portland, Oregon and I’ve heard a lot of interesting feedback.
There is a concern by commercial vendors that writing an application for one toolkit or desktop might alienate users that use other desktops. The end results are bland applications that either re-invent technologies that desktops already provide or a mediocre user experience that integrates poorly with any desktop, if at all. Commercial vendors do not have a unified framework that can provide at least a basic set of specifications for applications that would integrate on any desktop.
Freedesktop.org will solve these problems, providing one stop shop for standards that developers can utilize, provide an arena to propose new desktop technologies for standardization, and finally create a layer that applications can coexist in any desktop the user wants to use. Developers will be able to develop against the toolkit/desktop of their preference without worrying that they might lose half their customers because they are on another toolkit.
Yes, the future of desktops is bright keep you’re eye on freedesktop.org and you’ll know why.