I (JohnWilliams) started this page because I see no information on live.gnome.org about the strategic plans of GNOME.

Goals, Strategy and Tactics

If you study strategy at a business school, you will learn that strategy is the broad way(s) to achieve your goal(s), and that tactics are the ways to implement your strategy. This implies that we can't talk strategy until our goal(s) have been stated. In the interests of kicking off the debate, I have defined some goals, strategy and tactics below. Wiser and better -informed folk than I should feel free to amend what I have written.


What is GNOME trying to achieve? Here are some plausible goals:

  • Provide a Free Software GUI for operating systems that compete with Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac OS.
  • Provide a Free Software GUI at least as powerful as Microsoft Windows and Mac OS
  • Provide a Free Software GUI at least as feature-complete as Microsoft Windows and Mac OS

Here are some more goals that are perhaps more realistic:

  • Provide a Free Software GUI for Unix-like operating systems that provides the current best practice wisdom of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) research, but one that does not necessarily aim to achieve feature parity with Microsoft Windows or Mac OS
  • Provide a Free Software GUI for Unix-like operating systems that provides for the needs and tastes of users of those operating systems, without necessarily taking into account the needs and tastes of users of other operating systems

I'm sure other people could come up with similar goals, or perhaps even quite different ones. Note that none of these goals address what many people who actually write GNOME code have expressed as their motivation:

  • Provide the GUI component of a complete Free Software operating system that aims to emancipate users from the negative effects (for both individuals and societies) of their use of Non-Free software and operating systems. This is both a technical and political issue.

GNOME is not a corporation. We cannot state unambiguously what "our" goal is and expect everyone who is "part of" GNOME to agree. On the other hand, if someone wants to be part of something, it is helpful to know what that something is.


I am going to assume that the majority of people who are "part of" GNOME have, at the very least, some sympathy for the "emancipation" goal proposed above.

So, possible strategies might be:

  • Provide users of GNOME with reasons to continue using GNOME, and reasons to reduce their usage of Non-Free software.
  • Provide non-users of GNOME with reasons to start using GNOME, and reduce their usage of Non-Free software.


Let's assume that the chosen strategy is to target the existing GNOME user base, rather than non-users. A reason for this could be something like: "I like GNOME and use it a lot, but I don't really feel I can recommend it to my non-geek friends just yet. It's almost there, but not quite." We want to give people with that attitude reason to change it to "I used to think that GNOME was not ready for my non-geek friends, but now I can see that it is no more challenging or less useful than Microsoft Windows or Mac OS."

Then some possible tactics might be:

  • Educate current GNOME users about the degree to which GNOME has feature-parity with Microsoft Windows and Mac OS. An feature that GNOME lacked a year ago (or six months ago) may be implemented now, but be little-known.
  • Identify the areas where GNOME is genuinely lacking with respect to alternatives (and fix them).


Ah, implementation. There is no use having goals, strategies and tactics if the tactics cannot be implemented.

It is common wisdom in some quarters that GNOME will never achieve feature-parity with Microsoft Windows and Mac OS because of the use by those operating systems of proprietary technology. This is particularly acute in the area of multimedia codecs and hardware device drivers. The self-imposed limitations of Free Software means that we cannot ever achieve feature-parity, and the reason for that is legal, ethical or political (as opposed to technical or logistical).

However recent news in the GNU/Linux world seems to point to the idea that hardware and software vendors are increasingly accepting of Free and Open Source software, and while they may have a long way to go, things are getting better. (Are there any hard facts or sources we can link to here?) A point worth mentioning, especially on the hardware side, is that GNU/Linux is approaching (or may have even surpassed) the market share of Mac OS. This means that if a vendor targets Max OS for reasons of potential market size, it makes sense to target GNU/Linux also.

So, possible implementation actions are:

  • Create a list of the "features" of various operating systems and record which systems implement which features * Publicise the resulting matrix to users * Publicise the resulting matrix to developers * Publicise the resulting matrix to vendors

That's it for now. More later. Go crazy!


  • Open source includes elements of democracy, monarchy, and even anarchy. It would be nice to take a poll of GNOME users which asks them to prioritize the goals you've mentioned. I think the results would help all political factions in deciding how to act. (JohnPeterson)

    • Sage words indeed. But perhaps we disagree slightly: the only people who can actually change GNOME are the people to write the code and documentation. They, not users (i.e. users who do not contribute code and documentation) are the ones who should be polled. (JohnWilliams)

      • I'm for making separate polls for each demographic. "How?," is the question. (JohnPeterson)

      • Not only the "people", also the organizations. For instance, the Advisory Board companies of the GNOME Foundation have all their own strategies, and GNOME plays a role in them. Big deployers such as the governments of Andalusia (200.000 GNOME desktops) or corporation X having migrated to a GNOME-based solution have also a strategy. The better we can satisfy these strategies the closer we will be from that 10X10. -- QuimGil

  • See 10x10 for a goal not specifically mentioned here. (JohnPeterson)

  • I can't agree on the "as Windows and Mac OS X" point, seeking the "another one state" as goal is not a good idea, we have to have our self goals, and they have to be well described. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple on '97 he said on his keynote "to make us win, we shouldn't think that Microsoft has to loose, we should make as good as we can". Maybe we could learn something from that sentnce and forget what Microsoft and Apple is doing, and ask ourselves what kind of desktop and platform do we want to provide. So I think that the second "set" of goals is a better approach. (AlbertoRuiz)

  • We can adapt the strategy planning (and agreement) to the GNOME release cycle as well: defining a broad strategy with long term goals and then decide what actions are we going to complete (or try to complete) in the following release cycle. This is the approah we are doing for the GnomeWeb/Goals and I think it works. It would also help defining a marketing strategy focused in each release, so we wouldn't be discussing what should the slogan and banner be about few days before the release, when the product is completely dinished (a bad marketing practice). -- QuimGil

Attic/Strategy (last edited 2013-11-23 00:31:59 by WilliamJonMcCann)