Ubuntu Has Lost What Made it Special

There has been a lot of coverage on Ubuntu 17.10 and there are more experienced Linux users who have reviewed the newest release from Canonical, so I won’t bore you with going over the features of the new release. Chances are you’ve seen them over and over again on other Linux sites or in the Linux Communities you frequent.

The one thing that everyone is focusing on is the reintroduction of GNOME as the stock Ubuntu environment, replacing Unity that has been the DE for Ubuntu users since 2010. The focus has been on GNOME for good reason since Ubuntu remains the most well-known consumer distro in the US. A lot of people are going to be impacted by this change.

The problem for me is that I don’t think it was a good choice, even if it might have made sense for Canonical from a business perspective.

Unity Was Different

Ubuntu 17.10 With GNOME Shell no extensions

While Unity was based on the GTK framework, it was sufficiently different from GNOME that it made Ubuntu feel special. It made it possible to differentiate Ubuntu running GNOME from Debian running GNOME. And while I know there are other differences, the DE is the most front facing. It’s the one that everyone will notice, no matter their experience with Linux.

While most users won’t experience Debian due to it being significantly harder to install than Ubuntu, I think that Unity added something special to Ubuntu, something that it misses now that it just another Linux Distro that runs near-stock GNOME. It no longer stands out as something different.

For the longest time, not only was Ubuntu the easiest distro to install, but it had Unity that differentiated it from other releases. Once other distros came out that were as easy to install, Unity was the main thing that set Ubuntu apart. Now that it is back to GNOME what sets Ubuntu apart? Why would you choose it outside of it being named Ubuntu?

That’s the question I have. There are many other distros that are just as easy to install that have more things setting them apart now that GNOME is the choice for DE. Even other flavors of Ubuntu make more sense to me now, like Budgie, Kubuntu, or MATE. MATE was really good when I tried it last week.

Maybe this is just a ‘me’ problem. I’ve never been happy with GNOME. It’s boring. Sure it can be customized (if you install Tweak tool and extensions) but for the most part, it stays looking the same as it has since GNOME 3 came out.  If you love GNOME, then I ask you why you choose Ubuntu over other distros that also run GNOME out of the box like Fedora or Arch (through Antergos which makes it just as easy to install as Ubuntu) or Solus? What is it now that sets Ubuntu apart? That’s my question.