Xorg and Wayland represent two fundamentally different approaches to graphical server systems in the Linux world, sparking a lively and ongoing debate among the community.
In light of this, Xorg, the classic standard, is known for its extensive history and broad compatibility, while Wayland is viewed as a more modern and streamlined successor.
More than anything, however, it seems that Xorg is living its last days, with more and more Linux distributions and desktop environments about to abandon it in favor of Wayland. For example, KDE and GNOME have declared their intentions to fully transition to Wayland in their upcoming versions, a move that Fedora has also joined in.
But now, the biggest name in the Linux ecosystem, Red Hat, has announced that their future RHEL 10 will rely entirely on Wayland, abandoning Xorg and keeping only Xwayland as a compatibility layer.
The End of an Era: RHEL 10 Phasing Out Xorg
Red Hat has announced significant changes in its upcoming Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 10, marking the end of an era for the 30-year-old traditional X Window System, Xorg, in favor of Wayland. Believe it or not, Red Hat’s involvement in this transition spans approximately 15 years.
However, the time to take a final decision is now over. The move was driven by the realization that the X11 protocol and the Xorg server were beset with fundamental issues that Wayland could resolve. At the same time, while Red Hat has supported both Xorg and Wayland stacks, the time and resources split between them have become increasingly challenging to maintain.
All of this has led to the decision to deprecate the Xorg server in RHEL 9, with plans for its removal in future releases. RHEL 10, slated for the first half of 2025, will see the removal of Xorg and other X servers, except Xwayland. This transition ensures continued support for X11 clients through Xwayland while facilitating the shift to a Wayland ecosystem.
With this, we’ve decided to remove Xorg server and other X servers (except Xwayland) from RHEL 10 and the following releases. Xwayland should be able to handle most X11 clients that won’t immediately be ported to Wayland, and if needed, our customers will be able to stay on RHEL 9 for its full life cycle while resolving the specifics needed for transitioning to a Wayland ecosystem.
While specific to RHEL, this decision reflects a growing consensus among Linux distributions about the inevitable shift towards more modern and capable graphical stacks.
Indeed, some, like Linux Mint, still opt to use Xorg, which is practically stagnant in development and improvements, to maintain the user experience their audience is accustomed to.
Furthermore, there will always be users who rationalize that particular applications, such as remote desktop clients, screen sharing, or some other functionality, do not run reliably under Wayland.
The question is whether the whole Linux community should keep pounding on the 15-year-old refrain of moving away from Xorg and toward Wayland in light of these isolated cases.
But whether many like it or not, the coming 2024 will be a watershed. Things are expected to evolve after the release of the upcoming KDE 6 and GNOME 46, which are focused entirely on Wayland. In light of this, Xorg will likely be completely phased out within the following years, with some Xwayland-based compatibility being maintained at first.