During the recent collapse in popularity of GNOME, the Free Software community's most popular graphical desktop environment, it's hard to understand why more users didn't turn to the GNU System's other desktop, GNUstep -- or is it?
Although GNUstep implements most of the functionality of a desktop with native apps -- like Workspace Manager and Preferences -- or by including apps built outside the project -- like its window manager, WindowMaker, GNUstep is not a desktop. Its a framework. For most, the distinction is nebulous. It's developers tell us, GNUstep is:
. . . a free, object-oriented, cross-platform development environment that strives . . . to be completely compatible with the Cocoa specification developed by Apple . . .
In other words, its a Free Software implementation of Apple's Cocoa APIs that represents a framework for building system, desktop, & server applications. This means it contains all of the basic components to ease the development of applications. It's core libraries, GNUstep-make and GNUstep-base, allow coders to write command-line tools in the Objective-C language. The graphical development apps, Project Center and Gorm, ease the coding of complex commercial applications, often enabling programmers to build them in weeks or months, rather than years. Because GNUstep is Free Software it can be installed and run on many systems; making its apps highly portable.
With all this going for it, why didn't more users adopt it after leaving GNOME. The answer probably lies in the reason they left GNOME. GNOME 3 was an attempt to build a simpler interface, that it's developers thought would be better looking and more user-friendly. They appeared to be using Apple's Mac OS X as their model. Many users felt this dumbed-down the interface, reducing their ability to customize the desktop to their liking and disrupted their workflow. Since GNUstep is an actual implementation of Cocoa, these users weren't likely to make the switch.
This raises the question: if there was great demand in the community, for an "Apple-like" environment, then why weren't people using GNUstep in the first place? Also, why did GNOME developers choose to make GNOME like Mac OS X instead of joining GNUstep development?