The Fedora KDE Plasma spin will boldly move to go all-in on Wayland, dropping X11 when Plasma 6 comes out. Here’s why.
For years, one of the most hotly debated topics on the Linux desktop has been the replacement of the X11 protocol with Wayland. Moreover, despite popular belief that X11 is already too old and that Wayland is the way to go, X11 is generally still supported in all Linux distributions for various reasons.
However, the Fedora KDE Plasma spin developers have plans to take a significant move by dropping support for X11 entirely following the release of Plasma 6, which is currently in early development. Here are their main arguments behind this decision.
RHEL Deprecated the Usage of the Xorg Server
Fedora and its derivatives are closely linked to Red Hat and its enterprise distribution, RHEL. This means the distribution inherits and conforms to many of Red Hat’s decisions.
So it is unsurprising that the Fedora developers follow Red Hat’s recommendations. Ultimately, they are related projects, with Fedora being “upstream” of Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
Wayland Is Being Actively Developed Unlike X11
Let’s face it – X11 is old. I mean, really old. The X window system was first introduced in 1984, but computers have evolved significantly since the 1980s. So, the design of X11 is unsuitable for modern hardware or use cases.
Wayland emerged in 2008 to replace it. It operates entirely differently than X11; it is considerably simpler, and its architecture reflects modern hardware, ranging from embedded devices to desktop PCs.
In practice, in recent years, Xorg does not receive any development and is only kept alive with some patches. Furthermore, there aren’t enough developers willing to put in the time and effort. In other words, the question is not if but when the project will be declared discontinued.
At the same time, Wayland enjoys active development and successfully meets the needs of modern computer systems. So, Fedora KDE Plasma developers see the upcoming Plasma 6 release as a good starting point to say goodbye to the past with an eye to the future.
Wayland Is (Almost) Ready for Prime Time
Wayland hasn’t yet fully taken X11’s place, owing to its lack of stability when working with various applications and GPU drivers. However, many still rely on X11, so developers can’t replace a 40-year-old window system overnight.
However, this is losing strength as an argument, as nearly every modern application and GPU drivers already offer good Wayland compatibility. This is especially true with the KDE desktop environment.
The developers of Plasma strongly recommend that Wayland be adopted as the default session type in the upcoming 6.0 release of the desktop environment. Something that has been taken into account by the Fedora KDE spin team.
What’s Next for Fedora KDE?
First and foremost, it should be made clear that switching entirely to Wayland and removing support for X11 currently only affects the Fedora KDE Plasma spin and is at the proposal stage. Whether it will be accepted as final is yet to be seen, but initial expectations are that it will happen.
Meanwhile, the KDE Plasma desktop developers have not yet committed to any roadmap for the 6.0 release, simply stating that it is expected by the end of the year.
This means that even if the proposal is approved, it will not become a reality until the Fedora 40 KDE Plasma release, which will happen around late April 2024, along with the main Fedora 40 release.
Finally, transitioning to Wayland-only does not imply that X11 applications will no longer work in Plasma 6 in the Fedora KDE spin. Don’t forget about Xwayland – a compatibility layer that bridges the Wayland protocol and the legacy X11 applications.
In other words, by utilizing Xwayland, users can run their favorite X11 applications without needing to be rewritten or adapted for Wayland.
In any case, news about the discontinuation of X11 support in favor of Wayland from various Linux distributions will become more common over the next few years, which is quite normal given the evolution of Linux as a fully functional desktop operating system ready to cover the daily needs of an everyday computer user.
More information regarding the proposal to drop X11 support in the Fedora KDE spin can be found here.