What the…? Fork KDE?

Bashing KDE has become the new black. I’m pretty sure that it started out as legitimate concerns about KDE’s direction, and then some out-of-control internet flamers/trolls/foaming at the mouth crazy people jumped on the bandwagon. By now, KDE4 is actually the AntiChrist and we will all be murdered in our beds.

Let’s back up here for a bit. KDE 4.0 was by no means a stable, feature complete release, so releasing it with a “4.0” number was a bad idea. I think we can all agree on that.
But to be fair, the KDE devs told everyone at the time that it wasn’t stable or feature complete. Of course, people went ahead and installed it anyway. Even more baffling, some distributions included it in their releases, sometimes as the only KDE alternative. Possibly some people at the helm of Fedora were very high when they decided to do that.
Enter the complaints: “This is not stable or feature complete!”. Well, duh.

Unfortunately, the complaints went further than that. What the KDE devs are trying to do is to radically change the way we use our desktop, and people don’t like change. I can actually understand this. As far as I can see, getting used to KDE 4 will take some time…but then again, the same applied to switching from Windows to KDE, from KDE to GNOME, from GNOME to Openbox…you get used to everything. Change isn’t necessarily change for the worse.
Again, I can understand why people complain here. It’s only natural. But it’s not just complaints, is it? I’ve seen people on message boards demanding from the KDE devs that they keep things the way they want them to be. Worse, I’ve seen someone claiming that he wouldn’t touch KDE again until he got an apology from the KDE devs, for screwing up his beloved KDE. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, but don’t ask me for more examples. I tried to stay away from the KDE4 hoopla, but it’s just impossible.

And now some people want to fork KDE. I think it was Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols who first suggested it, and now this guy suggests exactly the same thing (while presenting it as his own idea, mind you). Forking KDE, what a great idea. They probably hugged themselves in their sleep when they dreamed that one up.
As can be expected, reactions are divided. Some people think it’s a great idea, smart people point out that it’s impossible. See, the ones who do want KDE forked, don’t want to do it themselves. They don’t have the time. Or the knowledge. That’s because nobody does.

Consider the work that goes into developing KDE. We’re not talking about an abandoned music player, or a chat client, or an office suite, or even a graphical server. It’s an entire desktop environment! Companies like Trolltech, Novell and Mandriva employ developers to work on it, and there are many, many others who work on KDE as a volunteer. I think “thousands” isn’t an exaggeration here, not when you consider all other projects that use KDE as an umbrella, like K3b and Amarok.
Furthermore, KDE is sponsored, and not by small names. We’re talking about Intel, Novell and Mark Shuttleworth here. How are you going to match that?
You won’t. But hey, that stuff isn’t important anyway. Let’s all think of names for our new KDE instead.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what people think anyway. We don’t decide what the direction of KDE will be, the developers do. Should they listen to what users want? Yes. But they’re the ones doing the work, and the final decision of how things will be done is up to them. If they’re as spectacularly wrong as some people would like us to believe, KDE4 will be used by absolutely nobody, and the KDE devs will realise their failure and commit suicide. KDE 3.5 will be forked and remain just as it is now forever and ever until the end of time and possibly beyond. Problem solved.

I for one will wait until KDE 4.1 comes out, and I’ll give it a fair chance. If I like it, I’ll use it. If I don’t, I’ll use one of the alternatives.

But that’s probably just me being too rational about it.



8 Responses to What the…? Fork KDE?

  1. sjvn says:

    Although I wasn’t aware of it at the time I wrote my piece, there was already heated arguments within KDE circles about forking KDE. As I describe in this story:


    the first time someone came right out and said that KDE should be forked was on June 7th.


    as far as I can tell. Before that, however, there were already flame within the group about where KDE was going.


  2. celettu says:


    thanks for the links. Your article was the first (I read) that mentioned it, that’s why I gave you the “credit” 🙂

  3. John says:

    celettu: Thanks for a fair and reasoned appraisal. I hope KDE4.1 proves to you that we are moving in the right direction. I will just say that we we’re right to label it 4.0, same as KDE2.0 and 3.0, Gnome 2.0, Linux 2.6.0 were are .0 releases, it’s just the FOSS way.

    Steven: Yes, an unknown non-developer troll suggested it on a kde list, but then anyone who can click on the subscribe link can post to kde lists. Now, if an experienced senior developer with standing in the community called for a fork on the restricted core list, then there would be a story. As for the flames about direction, you won’t find it much in the developer community, only in the user fringes who display a very high degree of ignorance of what’s really happening. Oh, and that little plus sign on icons is there for single-click mode and touchscreen devices, if you had asked Aaron he would have explained that to you.

    A big problem is many people don’t realise that the KDE3 desktop/panel code is a bug-ridden mess that Aaron had spent years trying to fix. Aaron tried for several months to port it to KDE4/Qt4 and couldn’t make it work. Those lost months are a major reason why Plasma wasn’t in as complete a state as it could be when 4.0 was released. But it was from those years of experience that his vision for Plasma emerged, and I believe he has it right. Good luck to anyone who thinks they can match that.

    Another thing people forget is Aaron has designed Plasma with different form factors in mind, such as the eee, Nokia N810, touchscreens and mobiles, not just the standard desktop. This is the truly radical thing about Plasma, app developers can target Plasma and it will take care of many of those cross-from-factor issues.

  4. Tom says:


    The KDE “developer” ( actually he was a marketing guy .. ) mainly quit because of RL commitments.
    And some guy asking for a fork on a mailing list says nothing.

    Calling for a fork is just good for getting hits for your blog, but it also makes you seem pretty dumb TBH.

    KDE ( KDE3 + KDE4 ) is the biggest open source community project out there ( OO.org might be of similar size, but it is mainly Sun ).
    Those people who want a fork have no clue. Only the infrastructre needed to support _working_ development will take months and some money to set up. It is way too big and complex for google code or SF.net.
    Then you have to have really good QT developers and lots of them .. and and and. I could go and on..

    Basically a fork would only be possible if _real_ KDE developers wanted to do it ..
    but they seem really happy with the new code and their community.

    Conclusion: Calling for a fork is pathetic PERIOD

  5. blackbelt_jones says:

    It’s not reasonable to want to stand still AND move forward. I just want to keep using KDE3 indefinitely. Security updates, maybe a bug fix or two. Is that more possible?

  6. blackbelt_jones says:

    Conclusion: Calling for a fork is pathetic PERIOD;

    So goes the party line,. But think about it for a minute. we’re not talking about a major development effort. We’re talking about a preservation effort. There wouldn’t be that much to do, other than not add plasma. A Classic KDE would be able to get by on security updates on bug fixes for a long time, possibly years.

  7. Steven J. Interdonato says:

    I’m new to Linux and decided to start off with the KDE 4.1.2 that comes with Intrepid Ibex(Kubuntu 8.10), figuring that even though it seems to have a steeper learning curve (it’s almost too flexible), in the long run the flexibility will be a good thing, and of course the support issue. Getting fluent in Windows took plenty of time, and it’s a stiff, problem-prone OS, so why not invest some time in KDE? At least the effort will reap rewards.
    The only real problem I’m having is finding an equivalent to the Windows “my computer” / GNOME “computer” to easily access my hard (and other) drives.
    It is nice to have easy access to the command line too, though my memorized DOS commands no longer apply. That’s simply remedied by memorization/sticky notes though.
    As for the fork, for the record, I agree with John and Blackbelt Jones.

  8. John Spartan says:

    It’s 2011 now, and with the release of Gnome 3.0, Linux on the Desktop (as well as Linux on the workstation) is looking shakier than ever. KDE 4 is completely focused on “looking good”, but is unstable, slow, hard to customize and (unless kwin is replaced with compiz on nVidia setups) able to hardlock the machine.

    This, coupled with the fact that KDE 4 is now the only viable alternative for a workstation desktop in Linux land, is unacceptable.

    Porting KDE 3 to QT4 is a monumental task, but one that is looking inevitable. We need at least one desktop environment that is focused on stability and useful features, rather than eye candy, twitter and facebook integration and built on a mish-mash on Python, Ruby, JavaScript and dbus messages.

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