January 23, 2004

Some X.org and Xfree86 developers now working together as a single group

Author: Robin 'Roblimo' Miller

In a press conference held today at LinuxWorld 2004 in New York, members of the old X consortium, some members of the disbanded Xfree86 core developer group, and Havoc Pennington of freedesktop.org announced that many X.org and xFree86 are now working together to bring "not just more eye candy but new functionality" to the X Window System for Linux and Unix. Another change is a new eagerness to work with -- and give credit to -- individual contributors rather than continue to view X development primarily as a corporate activity. Updated: The headline and several lines have been changed; XFree86 will maintain a separate identity. It is individual developers, not the projects themselves, that are working together.X.org -- no longer "the X consortium" -- is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Both corporate and individual contributions to it are tax-deductible. Its (new) mission statement says the group exists "To promote a proactive and participatory community for Open Source X Window System and desktop development."

There was some community confusion in the wake of a terse announcement at the end of December on the Xfree86 Web site (that has been expanded and updated since it was originally posted) that said the project's core team had disbanded. There was speculation that XFree86 development might cease or be crippled, and that freedesktop.org might somehow replace X. What has really happened is that X.org development is now taking place under the aegis of freedesktop.org, specifically at www.freedesktop.org/Software/xorg.

Havoc Pennington pointed out that freedesktop.org is not, itself, a development project. He said, "Historically, it was just a Web site and mailing list," that housed projects involving window managers, and that partially because of the mingling of developers from various projects there, "the window managers for Gnome and KDE became mostly interchangeable." He said, "by hosting something, freedesktop.org doesn't endorse it," and noted that the site hosts a number of competing projects and is not a formal standard-setting group, but serves as a "collaboration zone" where desktop GUI developers can work toward common goals.

Jim Gettys, a developer one colleague said "has been part of the X consortium almost since before there was an X Window project," said the project restructuring's main goal was "rebuilding the vibrant community we had in the early years."

Members of the newly-reformed X.org are still coming to grips with their new style of development, but most of the "ex-core" XFree86 people and their cohorts agree that their new, more open style is likely to speed development not just of the visual portion of the X Window System but also of components related to sound, printing, and all the other "pieces" needed to create and maintain a complete, user-friendly desktop environment for Linux, Unix, and related operating systems.

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