December 6, 2012

What Wayland Means for Developers

For two decades, X has been the foundation for Linux graphics. Ubuntu's decision late in 2010 to switch to Wayland shakes things up all the way to those roots. Just over a month ago, the official 1.0.0 release of Wayland appeared, as well as its associated Weston project. How will these milestones affect working GUI programmers? What will happen to all the existing toolkits — Qt, wxWindows, Tk, and others — on which so many graphical applications already depend?

The hope is that Wayland will make things better. With luck, or at least optimism, graphics will be faster and richer, and perhaps no more difficult than now - possibly even easier to maintain. In this article, I explain why, and explore the challenges that remain.

Let’s start by considering what an end user will see. In casual language, future releases of Ubuntu will base their graphics on Wayland rather than X. Since Wayland is designed for 3D displays, the Linux applications of the future will look three-dimensional!

That summary hides considerable detail. When this will actually happen is not set in stone. Certainly it was not in time for Quantal Quetzal 12.10 in mid-October 2012, and I doubt that 13.04, scheduled for spring 2013, will include Wayland as Ubuntu's default display protocol. The Ubuntu Developer Summit in Copenhagen at the end of October 2012 hinted at plans for Wayland adoption. While Wayland would nicely complement 14.04's planned break-out to a wide variety of display devices, including televisions and smartphones, I doubt that anyone can be certain how many Wayland-targeted device drivers will be ready by then.

3D on a Single 2D Screen — Through Time

Wayland supports three-dimensional effects; it doesn't magically create them...Read more at Smartbear