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Editor's Note: Where In The World Is The KDE League?

Jan 09, 2004, 23:30 (113 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

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By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

You get a sense of things in this job, when things are not exactly focused, when patterns don't make a lot of sense. I first noticed the problem late last year.

When Bruce Perens came out with his decision to develop and promote GNOME on the desktop instead of GNOME and KDE, it struck me as a bit odd that it was independent developers who came out and led the protest against this decision.

When Eric Raymond made his prediction that the end of KDE as a commercial desktop was nigh on The Linux Show the other evening, I winced a bit and waited for the fireworks to start.

Nothing. Silence.

Hello?

To say KDE is slipping a bit in popularity on the "major" distributions is a fair statement. Now that Ximian is a part of the same company as SUSE, this traditional stronghold for KDE is now in question. And Red Hat was never strong on KDE to begin with.

Just because Red Hat and SUSE may be shifting away from KDE does not mean the end of this desktop environment, of course. Xandros and Lindows are still behind this environment, and their recent commercial successes in the retail channel proves that KDE as an interface will still be a force to be reckoned with. So, I am not sure about the accuracy of Raymond's prediction, based on these events.

But it is not my intention to debate ESR right now. My intention is to point out the absence of something many of us, including myself, seem to have forgotten about.

Where in the world is the KDE League?

Their Web site is down, since I don't know when. A Netcraft search comes up with nothing, while a whois search comes up with the domain kdeleague.org as still registered to the League's main offices in Oslo, Norway. E-mails and phone calls to Andreas Pour, who was a main driver behind the League, have not been answered.

However, I did get a polite answer from one of the League's old reps, Chris Schlaeger.

"The KDE League was a marketing organization of the KDE Project. It was active mainly in 2001 and 2002. Andreas Pour was the driving force behind it," Schlaeger wrote. "After several years of very active participation in the KDE Project he decided to focus his time on other things again."

Without Pour at the helm, "the League is dormant now and we are considering what to do with it," Schlaeger added. If the right person comes along, he indicated, then the KDE Project will consider reactivating the League's function as a marketing organization for the KDE Project.

I, for one, certainly hope this happens soon.

The KDE Project as a whole is quite capable of continuing without a marketing arm, of course, but I think it is a detriment to the developers in the project that they are operating without this function. Marketing is not everything, but in the business-oriented Linux community, it is definitely not nothing, either.

The GNOME Foundation, which handles this type of duty for the GNOME Project, is clearly an advantage to that team--though Ximian's powerful status as a commercial GNOME company has more than enough marketing power to sell GNOME as "the" Linux desktop.

Without a group of people to spread a cohesive message about the positives of KDE, then, I fear, KDE may slip into the background as a commercially successful desktop. And that, I believe, is not a good thing.

Let's be clear: this is not about any dislike I have against GNOME. I would be arguing the same thing if GNOME were the one in trouble in this situation. My feelings on this matter are simple: I strongly believe diversity in any system is always going to be a good thing.

Yes, there are insipid and sniping comments traded between the GUI camps, and there have been enough flamewars to wear down even the most skilled UN negotiators. But underneath that nonsense, I think the real sense of competition has been something that has helped both sides perform better.

Also, more and more, GNOME has become strongly aligned with the fortunes of a few companies (Ximian, Red Hat, and now SUSE/Novell). That may ultimately strengthen GNOME as a piece of software, but I belive it may also weaken it as a community-focused project. KDE, for now, still remains in the hands of its members. Some of the more reactionary readers of this site would point out that GNOME is also more aligned with US companies. I don't think there's anything wrong with that per se, but any time a group project has the potential to become polarized along certain lines (corporate, geographical, or poltical), then that project is diminished in some way.

I am unsure if there is a problem within the KDE Project. But from the outside looking in, I can honestly say the perception of a crisis is really there. KDE appears weaker right now, and I think it needs to find someone to start leading the KDE League again so the face KDE shows to the world is a stronger one.

Before the world begins to pass KDE by.