GNOME Is Taking Steps Towards Dropping X11

Significant changes for the GNOME! Merge requests opened to end X.Org (X11) session support, moving to a Wayland-only environment.

The transition from X.Org to Wayland has been a topic of discussion and gradual implementation across the entire Linux ecosystem for years.

One of the most compelling reasons to embrace Wayland lies in its superior security model. Furthermore, it also brings to the table a streamlined and efficient display server protocol, which starkly contrasts the often-criticized complexity and overhead of X11.

In this regard, the developers of GNOME, one of the most popular desktop environments, have recently been abuzz with discussions surrounding a significant shift in its developmental trajectory.

Specifically, merge requests and developer conversations suggest a bold move: GNOME is potentially steering towards becoming a Wayland-only desktop environment, completely phasing out support for the X.Org (X11) session.

The GNOME developers are discussing removing X11 support in the desktop environment.
The GNOME developers are discussing removing X11 support in the desktop environment.

The main argument is that X11 has received less support in recent years. Moreover, in the last seven years, starting from 2016, GNOME defaults to the Wayland session.

On top of that, discontinuing X11 support in GNOME will lighten the desktop environment by several thousand lines of code that will be removed from it. All arguments sound perfectly logical.

So, while transitioning to a Wayland-only environment is laden with benefits, it has its challenges.

Legacy applications and systems that rely on X11 may face compatibility issues, and developers may need additional resources to ensure smooth operation in a Wayland-only GNOME. However, this is part of the price that has to be paid, so it has to happen sometime.

But given that the other popular desktop environment, KDE Plasma, will go Wayland by default in its sixth release, slated for February next year, we can conclude that the GNOME developers’ decision to stop supporting X11 in the desktop environment is entirely reasonable.

Finally, to recall, Fedora 40 KDE Spin also plans to remove the X11 support in the Plasma 6 desktop altogether and instead rely entirely on Wayland.

In other words, X11 will probably meet its final day in the upcoming year when the long-awaited major switchover to Wayland by default will eventually happen.

More information and the merge requests themselves can be viewed here.

Bobby Borisov

Bobby Borisov

Bobby, an editor-in-chief at Linuxiac, is a Linux professional with over 20 years of experience. With a strong focus on Linux and open-source software, he has worked as a Senior Linux System Administrator, Software Developer, and DevOps Engineer for small and large multinational companies.

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