GNOME

GNOME provides a complete desktop environment that is easy to use. The project experienced major problems, such as delays, during its 1.x series and in particular during the preparation of its 2.0 release. GNOME introduced time based releases after its 2.0 release and has significantly improved release management. The project has published time based releases every six months for a number of years now and is considered as the reference model for a good implementation of time based release management. They have shown that it's possible to set and meet deadlines in volunteer projects and to release on time.

Version Date Months
1.0 1999-03-03
1.2 2000-05-25 15
1.4 2001-04-02 10
2.0 2002-06-27 15
2.2 2003-02-06 7
2.4 2003-09-11 7
2.6 2004-03-31 7
2.8 2004-09-15 6
2.10 2005-03-09 6
2.12 2005-09-07 6
2.14 2006-03-15 6
2.16 2006-09-06 6
2.18 2007-03-14 6

Past problems

  • The main goal of version 2.0 was to change internal interfaces but after more than a year of work the project felt they had to deliver more user-visible changes, therefore leading to delays.
  • Developers were disappointed with delays and that their work was not available to users.
  • It was not clear what was going on. Developers constantly had to ask about the release status.
  • Freezes were announced and people worked towards them but then they were delayed. Freezes also often came unexpectedly.
  • Vendors had deadlines but the GNOME schedule was unpredictable. Vendors did not know whether they should aim for the next version or focus on the previous version and backport fixes.
  • Vendors had to backport many changes to a version that the GNOME project considered as old.

Solutions

  • The project introduced a rigorous schedule promising a release every six months.
  • There was a core team so few people had to agree to the introduction of a schedule.
  • GNOME introduced policies to keep the development tree fairly stable.
  • The project introduced the idea of reverting: if a feature was not ready on a certain cut-off date, it would be taken out again.
  • The project gained credibility because releases were actually performed on time.
  • The schedule allowed vendors better planning, and hence vendors could implement their features on the main development tree.

Outstanding problems

  • The six month schedule has been successful in the delivery of incremental updates. There are some concerns whether this release cycle makes the project less innovative and ambitious regarding major changes that would lead to GNOME¬†3.0.