Tuesday, 03 June 2014 09:54

GNOME Foundation board candidate questions Red Hat's 'dominance' Featured

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A candidate vying to become one of the directors of the GNOME Foundation has raised the issue of Red Hat's "domination" of development of the GNOME Desktop Project, claiming that "for the last several years, Red Hat's wants/needs have trumped what anyone else wants/needs, including the larger user base of GNOME."

Emily Gonyer's outburst occurred during a follow-up discussion to an email declaring her candidacy and outlining her platform.

Voting for the board of directors, with 11 people in the contest for eight posts, is ongoing and will continue until June 8. The results will be declared on June 10.

Gonyer's statements were first raised by the Linux Weekly News website; in a paywalled article, editor Jonathan Corbet discussed the issue of corporate involvement in free/open source software projects, and came down on the side of corporate involvement in such projects being a good thing as nobody but Gonyer among the candidates had raised the issue.

In her candidacy statement. Gonyer wrote: "It is my opinion that GNOME has strode (sic) too far towards a corporate-driven project and away from its community-led roots. As of now, GNOME is, in my opinion too beholden to a small handful of large corporations which forces the project to ignore large swaths of our users in preference to them.

"The end result being that GNOME has lost a tremendous portion of its respect and goodwill in the wider free software community. As a member of the GNOME board of directors I will actively work against this tide and towards the more open, community-driven project that GNOME once was and I hope will be again.

"I have been a long time user of GNOME since the 1.x days, and an active contributor for the last 2+ years now. I actively promote free software whenever and wherever I can, and feel strongly that it is only through free software that we will be able to keep the freedoms that we all cherish both online and off.

"Those freedoms are being actively obstructed and eroded by corporations and governments around the world. As a member of the board of directors I will actively work against these forces, in order to ensure a free and open internet for everyone."

From the time it released version 3.0, the GNOME Desktop Project has earned a large amount of criticism from users. Many forks of the desktop, some in order to retain older features deemed to be better, have arisen. GNOME developers are often characterised as arrogant by users and as being out of touch with their (users) needs, though this is often denied.

In the continuing discussion over her candidacy email, Gonyer wrote: "Yes, you're part of the community. But you're being paid by a large corporation to work on it, and as a result are beholden to them at least as much as to the rest of the community.

iTWire had recently highlighted issues with the GNOME text editor gEdit which made it, in the writer's opinion, less user-friendly.

Gonyer continued: "Red Hat is not the only thing that matters in the GNOME world. Or, it shouldn't be. But for the last several years, Red Hat's wants/needs have trumped what anyone else wants/needs, including the larger user base of GNOME which is what (I believe) has driven it to fracture into so many DE's over the last 3-4 years."

"We need to make sure that people who aren't working for Red Hat have a say. Make sure that people who aren't being paid to work on free software have a voice. Sure, those of us who are not currently paid can speak up on mailing lists, but we're (mostly) roundly ignored. This is what has driven the community apart. This is the problem."

According to its own website, the GNOME Foundation "steers releases, determines what software is officially part of the Project, and acts as the official face of the GNOME Project to the outside world, though it delegates most of its authority to specialised teams".

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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