This is now on the website. Please do any further editing there. - About - History


  • Copied from AboutGnome (below draft).

  • Started extremely rough draft (very late, sorry).

Current Draft

Any piece of free software can be a contribution to freedom; but GNOME is special: it was launched specifically with freedom in mind.

In 1997 Miguel de Icaza and Federico Mena started the GNOME project.  Although there was already a free software desktop called KDE, it was based on the non-free Qt GUI toolkit.  A different desktop was needed in order to have a fully free operating system.  Miguel and Federico chose to base GNOME on GTK+, a free GUI toolkit available under the terms of the GNU LGPL [1].  Over the next several months, a complete desktop was developed by a growing community of free software hackers.  GNOME's user community was also growing quickly, and in March of 1999, at Linux World Expo in San Jose, California, GNOME 1.0 was released to the world [2].  It soon became the desktop of choice for many GNU/Linux users.

GNOME 2.0, released in June of 2002 [3], represented a leap in technology and a shift in focus.  The new GNOME was based on the new and improved GTK+ 2, allowing for better text rendering, internationalization, and full desktop accessibility.  More importantly, now that GNOME was an established free desktop, the community could focus on providing an unparalleled user experience.  In GNOME 2.0, user interfaces were redesigned according to the new GNOME Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) [4].  Usability, accessibility, internationalization, and high quality remain central themes of GNOME development to this day.

The Qt GUI toolkit was eventually released as free software, allowing KDE to provide a fully free desktop as well.  GNOME, KDE, and other projects collaborate on common parts of the desktop, designing and following many standards and specifications from organizations like [5].  Thanks to these efforts, users can choose different free desktops with different focuses and feature sets without worrying about interoperability issues.

GNOME's history is still being written by those who value the four freedoms of free software [6].  We work to bring the free desktop to users of every background (technical level, language, physical abilities).  GNOME is people [7], and you can be a part of our history.  Find out how you can get involved [8]!

[7] Not sure what the best link is:
[8] Is there a good "get involved" link?

Alternate Version: Copied from AboutGnome

<title>History of GNOME</title>

Any piece of free software can be a contribution to freedom; but GNOME is special: it was launched specifically with freedom in mind.

In 1997  a major free software desktop already existed, but disastrously it was based on a proprietary (non-free?) toolkit. This was a great problem, as the desktop could not be run without proprietary software. When the GNU project was ready for a desktop, it launched two parallel projects : one of them was called Harmony, a project to develop a free software replacement for the proprietary parts of KDE and the other was GNOME, a project headed by Miguel de Icaza and Federico Mena to develop a free software desktop for the GNU operating system.

The competition was already established, so to help achieve success it was decided to allow non-free applications to work with GNOME. To achieve this, it was decided to use the LGPL, a free software license that allows for non-free software, for the GNOME core. It still seems that using the LGPL for core GNOME libraries was a very good policy, and we still want to encourage the developers of non-free apps to make them work with GNOME.

The company that owned the proprietary parts of KDE released them as free software very soon after and Harmony became unnecessary and was dropped. GNOME however had already become a success, and there were, and still are, many advantages to having two desktops [it keeps the trolls busy so they do little real damage:]. Since KDE became free software, cooperation with KDE developers works very well, common parts of the desktops are developed in unison.


  • started in August 1997 by Miguel de Icaza and Federico Mena
  • 1.0 released March 1999 at Linux World Expo in San Jose, California
  • 2.0 released 27 Jun 2002 (Release Announcement). Announcement focuses on better usability, internationalization, and accessibility.

  • History up to 1.4 as told by Miguel should be a good reference


  • Need links. --SandyArmstrong

  • First line is a paraphrase of an RMS quote. Do we need to cite that? What is the best way? The quote is from an old mailing list thread...
  • Other milestones?
    • Foundation
    • Guadec

GnomeWeb/WgoAbout/History (last edited 2008-02-03 14:47:14 by localhost)