Improving accessibility, tooling, and security for the Linux desktop ecosystem

Key facts

Investment Amount
Investment Year(s)
2023, 2024

The GNOME project is a community dedicated to the ongoing development and maintenance of the GNOME desktop environment and its associated software platform. It is a cornerstone of the free and open source software (FOSS) ecosystem, as GNOME is home to many critical infrastructure libraries and tools, used by countless users and developers worldwide. GNOME provides one of the most popular desktop environments used on the Linux operating system and includes a cohesive desktop environment, core applications, a design system, a platform to build third-party applications, and low-level Linux desktop components. GNOME also provides developer tools used by an ecosystem of hundreds of third-party applications built on the platform toolkit and design patterns.

GNOME integrates deeply with the Linux operating system, leveraging its core components and functionalities to provide a complete desktop environment. It interacts with various Linux subsystems, such as display management, input handling, and system configuration, to deliver a seamless user experience. GNOME is included as default desktop environment included in many Linux distributions.

Why is this important?

The control of platforms and operating systems is increasingly a security, sovereignty, and resilience concern. In this context, it's essential to have an operating system not controlled by a single private company, as is the case for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. GNOME is the largest and most complete fully-independent free desktop stack. This investment in the GNOME project increases the stability and security of the FOSS ecosystem and contributes to the long-term sustainability of a vital component of independent computing infrastructure.

It enhances the competitiveness of an independent and community-driven computing ecosystem amidst a landscape dominated by proprietary solutions. Supporting the continued improvement of the GNOME desktop environment contributes to maintaining diversity and choice in operating systems and promotes user autonomy.

GNOME-based Linux distributions such as Debian, Ubuntu, Red Hat, SUSE, Tails, and others are extremely common in industry, enterprise, academia, and governments around the world. Many other projects build on GNOME technology, including Linux desktop environments like Pantheon, XFCE, or Cinnamon, and an entire ecosystem of apps using GTK, a cross-platform widget toolkit for creating graphical user interfaces. Some case studies:

The GNOME project has long played a pivotal role in the free software ecosystem as a pioneer and R&D lab for foundational technologies used by the free desktops in particular and Linux as a whole (for example, DBus, Flatpak, and Wayland). Current efforts such as the new accessibility architecture and home directory encryption continue this tradition.

Work on the GNOME platform directly supports Linux applications like Firefox, OBS Studio, and Inkscape, which have are using the platform APIs GNOME provides. Accessibility improvements benefit the entire Linux desktop. GLib is a fundamental C library widely used outside of GNOME/GTK.

What are we funding?

The GNOME community has developed a comprehensive plan to modernize the platform, enhance tooling and accessibility, and support features that are in the public interest. These milestones collectively address critical areas such as security, accessibility, hardware support, and developer tooling, fortifying the GNOME ecosystem.

  1. Encrypt User Home Directories Individually: Implementation of systemd-homed backend to encrypt user home directories, bolstering security measures.
  2. Increase Range and Quality of Hardware Support: Optimization of GNOME desktop for diverse input methods and display devices, along with performance improvements.
  3. Modernize Platform Infrastructure: Refinement of desktop notifications API and modernization of GTK CSS engine, among other platform updates.
  4. Improve Quality Assurance and Development Tooling: Enhancement of GNOME OS and related tooling to facilitate continuous integration testing and streamline development processes.
  5. Improve State and Compatibility of Accessibility: Overhaul of accessibility stack to ensure compatibility with modern technologies such as Wayland and Flatpak, along with advocacy for accessibility integration in software development practices.
  6. Design a New Accessibility Stack for Linux Desktop: Creation of new accessibility protocols to replace outdated components, promoting compatibility with sandboxed applications and modern security standards.
  7. Maintenance and Modernization of Security Components: Upgrading and maintenance of security-related components like Seahorse, Keyring, and libsecret, incorporating essential security features and enhancements.
  8. Secure APIs for Wayland/Flatpak: Development of secure APIs for accessing resources and user data in Wayland and sandboxed applications, ensuring robust security measures for the Linux desktop environment.

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