Gnome back in Ubuntu today after 18 months

For the first time in one-and-a-half years, Ubuntu, the most popular open source operating system, will release a flavor that comes with Gnome – the most popular user interface in the open source world.

Ubuntu switched Unity in April 2011 when it released the version 11.04.

18 months later, it is all set to unveil a new, officially recognized ‘Ubuntu Gnome’ flavor today.

“The Ubuntu GNOME Remix is a mostly pure GNOME desktop experience built from the Ubuntu repositories,” the official announcement on the distribution page reads.

For Gnome fans, the Quantal Quetzal version to be released today will be the first major Linux distribution to ship the latest 3.6 version of the Gnome UI. All other big opensource desktops, such as Fedora, Arch Linux, Sabayon, OpenSuse, Mageia, Debian Sid etc., are still at version 3.4 of Gnome.

However, due to some issues with compatibility with Unity, Ubuntu will be holding back certain packages, including the file-browser Nautilus, ‘System Settings’ and the Totem media player.

For those who want to make the 3.6 experience complete, Ubuntu developers are offering the 3.6 versions of the above packages using the system of ‘personal package archives’ or PPAs.

Ubuntu, headed by Mark Shuttleworth, decided to invent Unity initially as a touch-friendly interface, compared to the Gnome 2 version. However, they soon made it default, starting in April 2011, in an effort to make the distribution interface more appealing on the PC as well.

The split led to friction between Ubuntu and Gnome developers (a community of volunteers), with Shuttleworth being quoted as saying: “Getting room for ideas to be explored should not feel like a frontal assault on a machine gun post. This is no way to lead a project. This is a recipe for a project that loses great people to environments that are more open to different ways of seeing the world … Embracing those other ideas and allowing them to compete happily and healthily is the only way to keep the innovation they bring inside your brand.”

However, the Unity UI has been less than popular with many users who found it less configurable than traditional interfaces built by the open source community. With the latest move, Ubuntu will have ‘officially recognized’ versions featuring all the main four UIs of the open source world, KDE, Gnome, LXDE and Xfce.