It seems fair to say that Linux users enjoy a degree of choice that's unmatched by the proprietary players in the desktop computing world, what with the wide variety of both distributions and desktop environments from which they can choose.
For that reason, it's all the more striking when large numbers of users express a marked preference for the same thing.
Case in point? GNOME 2.
Despite the best efforts of projects including Ubuntu and GNOME itself to entice users with new, mobile-style interfaces—namely, Unity and GNOME 3—legions of Linux users have resisted with equal vigor, demonstrating in no uncertain terms that their longtime favorite still holds the key to their computing hearts.
The king returns
GNOME 2, of course, was long the default desktop interface in numerous Linux distributions, including Canonical's popular Ubuntu.
In 2011 the dramatically redesigned GNOME 3 arrived on the scene, however, right around the same time that its like-minded cousin, Unity, was made desktop Ubuntu's default interface. Both sparked considerable controversy.
Such has been the strength of many Linux users' preference, in fact, that over the past year or so we've seen the emergence of multiple efforts to recreate the good, old GNOME 2 experience, including the MATE and Cinnamon desktops and even whole distributions such as Fuduntu and SolusOS.
Then, finally, to the joy of many, the GNOME project announced that it was bringing GNOME 2 back.
What users want
This situation is by no means restricted to the Linux world, of course—just look to Windows 8's Modern UI for a parallel example on the proprietary side.
It is, however, a vivid illustration of the disconnect that seems to have arisen recently between software makers and large numbers of their users.
Both Unity and GNOME 3 have their fans, to be sure—as, no doubt, must Modern UI—but the fact is that new and shiny isn't always what users want; sometimes, they just want what has worked for them for years.
On that critical criterion, I hereby crown GNOME 2 this year's king of the Linux desktop.