Open source: KDE hits back at GNOME

The KDE camp doesn't want a corporate group controlling its desktop environment, but it's fighting the Gnome Foundation anyway
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

When the Gnome Foundation was born a few weeks ago, rivals at the KDE Project said, in a Web posting for all to see: We don't need no stinking foundation.

But it seems the powers behind KDE (K Desktop Environment) may be rethinking that strategy, according to sources claiming familiarity with the open-source group's plans.

The KDE Project, the group of hackers that created KDE, is now contemplating the creation of some kind of foundation entity -- which some are calling the KDE League -- to spearhead the direction and development of KDE.

At the heart of the KDE vs. GNOME (GNU Network Object Model Environment) battle is the increasingly heated question of how much power corporations should have over the future of open source.

Many open-source advocates have stated both publicly and privately that they are leery of hardware or software powerhouses gaining too much sway over traditionally hacker-run Linux and other open-source projects.

In the past few months, PC and server vendors -- including Compaq Computer, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Sun Microsystems -- have jumped on the open-source bandwagon via various coalitions and projects.

On August 15, a dozen companies staged a news conference at LinuxWorld Expo in San Jose, California, to announce the creation of the Gnome Foundation.

Among the backers were open-source software companies such as Eazel, Helix Code, Red Hat, TurboLinux and VA Linux Systems, as well as a number of system vendors, such as Compaq, HP, IBM and Sun.

The Gnome Foundation's stated goal is to advance GNOME's availability as a common desktop on a variety of Unix and Linux platforms. Its board, whose individual members still have yet to be named, will help set the technical direction of the GNOME Project -- the group of hackers who created GNOME -- and offer a forum "for industry leaders to contribute to GNOME," according to the Foundation's press release.

The GNOME camp likened the Foundation to the Apache Foundation, which governs the direction of the Apache open-source Web server.

When the Gnome Foundation was announced, the KDE Project issued a statement claiming the existence of the new group would have no effect on the popularity of the KDE open-source desktop.

"Now we have been asked 'Will KDE ever create a KDE Foundation in the same sense as the GNOME Foundation?' " the KDE statement said.

"The answer to this is no, absolutely not. KDE has always been and always will be controlled by the developers that work on it and are willing to do the code. We will resist any and all attempts to change this."

But sources close to the KDE Project say the group is now leaning toward establishing an alternative to the Gnome Foundation, tentatively called the KDE League. Among the expected backers, sources said, are Linux distributors including Caldera Systems, Mandrake and SuSE.

KDE spokesman and SuSE Labs open-source developer Kurt Granroth declined to comment on the KDE League rumors.

But a source close to the KDE Project said that the League would not consist of a board of elected officials, a la the Gnome Foundation. It would, however, push KDE as a viable open-desktop alternative to GNOME.

Caldera also had no comment on the KDE rumours. "Competition's not a bad thing for the open-source desktop," said Caldera Systems CEO Ransom Love. "Right now, there's just too much religion."

Caldera Systems currently ships KDE as the default desktop on its OpenLinux platform.

"In some areas, KDE is more mature. In other cases, GNOME is," Love continued. "We want to drive towards a single, standard way of interfacing, as opposed to picking sides. We just want to make it easier for developers to deploy."

Gnome is the latest champion of the corporate Linux fan club, and its efforts to undermine Windows on the desktop can only be a good thing, argues Lem Bingley. Go to AnchorDesk UK for the news comment.

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