Thursday, April 19, 2007


So, Elijah brings up an interesting point about GNOME (or Gnome) branding. I suppose I shouldn't really have opened that particular can of worms (the literal meaning of the acronym) in a post that was essentially about something different. But it is telling that most of the feedback I've had has been about this, rather than the whole "the Network is the Computer" idea.

It seems that anyone who has an opinion believes that we shouldn't take the meaning of GNOME literally. And many other people believe that because that is so, we shouldn't capitalize it, so it should be written Gnome.

I don't really care about these issues, except that from a branding perspective:

  • consistency really helps
  • if there is no compelling reason to call it Gnome, why do we call it Gnome?
This is not meant to be a troll. It has been said in the past that it's kind of a dumb name (because of the meaning of "gnome" in English), and that we could probably survive a name change without too much grief.

What would happen if we changed the name? All the people who currently use Gnome would either say "great" or bitch and moan. I doubt that current users and developers who would bitch and moan would then abandon Gnome because of a name change.

But all the people who do not use Gnome (or had never heard of it) would now have a (hopefully) more attractive and meaningful word/symbol to attach to this very abstract concept ("What is Gnome?").

What are your opinions on Gnome branding? When Gnome 3.0 is released, should we call it something else? What's wrong with Topaz? ;-)


Anonymous said...

First, I'll say that the original "GNU Network Object Model Environment' acronym was pretty silly - it's a bundle of meaningless jargon. While a more 'connected' environment (for want of a better term) would be a good thing, Gnome isn't, and never has been a 'Network Object Model Environment', whatever one of those is. Consigning that acronynm to history is, in my mind, a good thing.

As to the simple Gnome without the acronym, perhaps I'm just used to it, but I don't find it silly. Or perhaps it's that I associate the word with gnomic (i.e wise, knowing) rather than with garden ornaments. From that point of view, renaming the project seems like a huge re-branding exercise, without much gain. 'Topaz' wouldn't be a bad name for a project, but I don't see a lot of benefit in a name change, compared with a great deal of cost.

Plus, it's pretty hard to make such a change stick anyway - change the name today, and chances are people would still be calling it Gnome years from now. My company renamed the major product several years ago, but many people both inside and outside the organisation still use the old name despite the best efforts of our marketing people.

scottishwildcat said...

One problem is that it's comparatively easy to change the name for the users, but the developers will still be stuck with APIs and libraries that call it GNOME. Assuming they will start to change over time too, things will just get into a bit of an inconsistent mess. (Case in point: the Cocoa classes in OSX still begin with "NS" for "NeXTSTEP"...)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, that's a good point too - I was thinking of just the marketing side, but yes, there's also the in-code names. We've got code in our product referring to names that are about three changes out of date. For Gnome, they've got things like D-Bus interfaces with an org.gnome naming, all the gnome-* packages, commands, libraries, etc. That kind of thing just can't be changed in most cases - not without totally breaking API/ABI compatibility, and hardly anyone wants to do that even for a '3.0' release.

Alan Horkan said...

trolltech => gnome (tech) ???

Miguel keeps his opinion fairly quiet but when pushed he did admit an ambivalence towards the acronym, gnome being the point and the acronyms was well a backronym.

Would be good to get developers thinking more about simple abstractions, especially given the number of applications which have been renamed over the almost 10 years of Gnome. It seems like proper engineering to abstract out the name of any application.

Mike said...

How about renaming it "GNU/Desktop"? ;)

GNOME is part of the GNU project, anyway.

Quentin said...

I agree with the first commenter who mentioned the high cost versus the minimal payoff. Sure, it could be renamed, but I doubt it would gain us much. Perhaps if we were on the verge of launching a multi-national marketing campaign getting the name "just so" would be worth it. As it is though, I think most people fall into two camps: Those who know what it is, and to whom the name matters little, and those who don't know what it is, and to whom the name matters even less.

Ultimately I think Gnome is good enough, and changing would be more work than it's worth.

Dropping GNOME and the backronym are a good idea though. consistency++.

Anonymous said...

Ew, as a translator of Gnome packages, I can't even begin to think of how much work I will have to do after the name transition. I might just give up.

Anonymous said...

The name is just a name. There isn't a new name you can come up with that will be worth the bother of changing the name, or having two names.

Besides, gnomes are cute.

Anonymous said...

Change the name. It sucks. Always has. Been on-board with the desktop since 0.1 or whatever it was called and hate the name, but loved the desktop. I wish it mattered, but my vote is to change the name. Soon. Please.

Benjamin Otte said...

Simple question: What name would you use and why is it better than GNOME?
Be aware that there must be a very good reason, since it would lead to a lot of work.

murrayc said...

This is bike-shedding. You'll get a lot of responses about irrelevant things. That doesn't make them relevant.

TAD said...

Topaz sounds real nice, and this doesn't have to entail API changes. Let them remain the same, and if for nothing else but to honour history, just like GTK still got GIMP in it. Anyways, doesn't the meaninglessness of GNOME mean the original vision of the creators failed?

vext said...

There have been points raised relating to the projects underlying the Gnome umbrella, each with distinct identities and names (Maemo, Sugar etc). Adding to this the tentative move to web-based integration potentially forming divergent 'forms' of the Gnome desktop could Gnome/GNOME be the over-arching organisation and the desktop environment be called, well, anything really (users were not confused by the Mozilla -> Firefox branding transition).
How about Gnome Desktop Environment (GDE)? ;)

Anonymous said...

Firefox name changed a lot of time, but I think the big difference is that it was in the early stage of it's adoption.

Mozilla is still used and it has been over 5 years since I first heard of mozilla products and derived.

yoplait said...

In french the meaning of "gnome" is the same, and I must tell that I never thougt "this is a silly name". I even think that it has a positive impact on the people. It sounds just nice and cute, and harmless.

GNOME Never Offered[1] his Meaning to be Emphasized.

[1] or Ordered

Pēteris Krišjānis said...

First, I never thought that GNOME is silly name - sorry, it is much better than KDE or Xcfe, Second, in a time, it has got a nice little side meanings, and hey, feet is cute. Third, it is simply not worth the hussle because as brand GNOME is already out there.

Pēteris Krišjānis said...

vext: surprise, GNOME releases are already called something like that :) Most people fall back to GNOME in everyday use anyway.

Scott said...

There are a number of names out there that were once acronyms but now stand for nothing.

I think we should just go with that. This would also mean leaving GNOME all capitalized.

There are a number of trademarks out there that are capitalized and were never acronyms to begin with.. They were just simply in all caps.

But by all means let's have GNOME mean nothing but.. GNOME.


"GaaNoooo" is like fingernails on chalkboard to me anyway.

Sorry hairy boy.. um er. RMS, but that's just the way it is.