During a planning session at the Ubuntu Developer Summit last week, a decision emerged to remove the GIMP from the default Ubuntu installation. Although this decision has generated a bit of controversy, it's a sign of Ubuntu's growing maturity as a mainstream platform for regular users. As a participant who attended the session in person, I want to shed some light on how and why the decision was made.
Canonical hosted its biannual Ubuntu Developer Summit (UDS) last week in Dallas, Texas. I was one of many open source software developers who attended the event and participated in the collaborative process of planning Ubuntu 10.04, the next version of the popular Linux distribution.
An important part of the 10.04 roadmap that emerged during UDS is a tentative plan to remove the GIMP, the GNU Image Manipulation Tool, from the default Ubuntu installation. Although this decision is viewed by some as controversial, the reasoning behind it is valid. The removal of a niche professional graphics editing tool reflects Ubuntu's growing maturity as a mainstream platform for regular users.
How UDS works
Ubuntu adheres to a six-month development cycle that follows the GNOME release schedule. At the start of each cycle, Canonical hosts a developer summit that brings together its own team, a multitude of community contributors, and upstream developers from prominent open-source software projects. The event primarily consists of planning sessions that address specific features or technical issues. Proposed changes to the platform are described in "blueprint" pages on the Launchpad development site.
During each session, participants flesh out the blueprint and take notes in a shared document that is written with Gobby, a collaborative text editor. Remote participants who are not in the actual room can still be involved in the process by accessing the Gobby document, connecting to an IRC channel for the session, and listening to a live audio stream of the discussion. To understand how many Ubuntu development decisions are made at UDS, it's important to recognize that the process is extremely inclusive and transparent. The event is open to everyone who wants to be involved.
The decision to remove the GIMP was made during a morning session last Wednesday called "Application selection in the default install." The session itself was videotaped, so you can actually watch the discussion for yourself. I was there in person, along with a few upstream GNOME developers and many members of the Ubuntu community. There were also several people who took part in the discussion remotely through the IRC channel.