UI Stability (As A Product)

Over the last few years I’ve watched interminable wrangling over sweeping UI changes to GNOME, Windows 8, or ongoing churn around the likes of Facebook and Twitter, and the Plusification of Google. I’ve also watched people adopt MATE, Cinnamon, third-party Twitter apps, and so on, all as a way of mitigating this disruption.

In the Linux world we’re familiar with the idea of lower-level stability: RHEL and SUSE’s business models are essentially built around two factors:

  • Having someone to yell at when things aren’t working the way you want.
  • Providing software vendors such as IBM, Oracle, or SAP with a nice, slow-moving target to develop their software against.

Something that’s become apparent to me in the last few years, as people try to shove smartphone workflows into desktop and laptop UIs, or push for look-and-feel changes in lieu of having fundamentals to update, is that there’s clearly a hunger for UI stability amongst many people. Witness MATE, Cinnamon, and the emergence of the Mint distribution (which is popular enough to attract threats from Canonical), or Red Hat’s decision to ditch the next-generation UI from RHEL 7, or the popularity of third-party apps to popular social media sites, most of which have a far lower rate of change than the official UIs.

What people want, in many cases, is “…that things go on as normal and tomorrow is pretty much like today.”1 And apparently there’s a business model in giving them just that.

  1. Apologies to Pratchett.