Had another fairly heated conversation yesterday with Dave about firefox and other apps who want to be more gnome-y, and I thought I’d rant on a bit about it here. Bottom line for me is that I want to match OS/X, and that means an integrated desktop, where apps all strive to look, feel, and behave the same. I had a franken-desktop before I installed evo and galeon back in 2001, with apps in gtk, motif, and even raw X. Frankly, when I install stock firefox and stock open office, that’s what I feel like I have again- the dialogs don’t match, the icons don’t match, the behavior doesn’t match. Some people seem OK with this, but I don’t think the linux desktop can win (or frankly even compete) if that’s the road we want to go down.
Now, maybe GNOME’s standards are not the right ones to follow. Almost definitely we’ve made it technically too hard to follow them. And we’re often not incredibly cooperative about working with outside parties on them, which is something we absolutely must fix- I want to be cc’d on relevant bugzilla.[mozilla|ooo|helix|.org bugs, and I’m very happy to do my constructive best to persuade folks of the importance of working with GNOME’s standards. (Though admittedly I think Shaver is a bit sick of me at this point ;) But the bottom line, I think, is that if we want to compete, we must pick a design and usability and integration standard, and at this point GNOME’s standards are the only ones we’ve got, and I think they are generally damn good ones. Until that changes, and we have a better standard that is a real usability standard and not just ‘write whatever you want’, I’ll unabashedly push hard for other groups to follow GNOME’s standards when writing apps for Linux.
Before this comes off as an anti-firefox rant, I’m using it as my workhorse browser right now, and it has made huge strides in the right direction. It is doing some very innovative stuff, and provides a pretty decent out-of-box experience in terms of performance and ease-of-use- in contrast, with, say, open office, which is still failing on all three of those counts. I just think firefox still has a ways to go before (out of the box, unpatched, which must be the goal) it provides the right experience on Linux. And that’s where I’d like to see all apps (Firefox, Real, OpenOffice, etc.) going- again, not specific to firefox. We should applaud firefox for having done the difficult work of innovating and the possibly even harder work of tearing up a huge codebase and starting from (UI) scratch. But just because that is impressive- and it is- doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to push it towards becoming a better, more integrated part of the linux desktop.