GNOME, one of the most recognized, respected projects in the open source world, has moved to GitLab to manage their more than 400 software projects and nearly 900 annual contributors. We couldn’t be happier to welcome the GNOME community! The migration is great news for both our communities, and we hope it’s just the beginning of a long and productive partnership.
Want to hear how it's going for GNOME now? We caught up with the project in September 2020.
A catalyst for change
Last year we were approached by developers of Debian to consider dropping our Contributor License Agreement (CLA) in favor of the Developer’s Certificate of Origin (DCO). In November we announced that we’d be switching to a DCO, and we’re happy that this change has been welcomed by the GNOME community too:
"We applaud GitLab for dropping their CLA in favor of a more OSS-friendly approach. Open source communities are born from a sea of contributions that come together and transform into projects. This gesture affirmed GitLab's willingness to protect the individual, their creative process, and most importantly, keeps intellectual property in the hands of the creator." - Carlos Soriano, Board Director at GNOME
GNOME software is used by millions of people worldwide, and is one of the largest and oldest free software projects. It’s best known for its desktop, which is a key part of the most popular GNU/Linux distributions, including Ubuntu, Debian, SUSE, and Fedora. However, the project also has a long history of producing critical pieces of software infrastructure: common parts of countless open source systems that are often taken for granted. Many essential, ubiquitous technologies began their life in the GNOME project, and have gone on to become the essential ingredients for a diverse range of products, communities, and companies. These include Mono, FOSS C# implementation used by Xamarin, a core team of Microsoft; and Inotify, Linux kernel file monitoring.
“Throughout its history, the GNOME project has been the training ground for software engineers and contributors who have gone on to play important roles elsewhere,” says Nuritzi Sanchez, president of GNOME’s board of directors and core member of the engagement team. “With a focus on quality engineering, design-driven development, and system-level plumbing, GNOME serves as an excellent environment for new contributors, and GNOME alumni hold positions at Google, Apple, Microsoft, Red Hat, innovative startups, and beyond.”
GNOME's software is found in televisions, e-book readers, in-vehicle infotainment systems, medical devices, and much more. The project continues to produce new, innovative technologies which are transforming the Linux ecosystem. Recent innovations include Flatpak and the accompanying app store, Flathub, which enables applications to run on any Linux-based operating system.
So, why GitLab?
Before migrating, GNOME used a broad range of tools to fulfil a number of specific purposes – from CGit for hosting to Bugzilla for bug tracking – but the number of tools made the onboarding experience for new contributors cumbersome and confusing. They started looking for a single tool to meet more of their needs to make this process easier and to improve their own workflows.
“We did an extensive analysis of multiple tools as we considered a solution that would fit all the requirements of an organization as big as GNOME,” says Nuritzi. “We had a set of hard requirements, with the most important one being that it must be free software, ideally not only in license but also in spirit.”
You can check out their analysis for a full account of the decision-making process.
What does the move mean for GNOME?
GNOME was looking for a way to make it easier for newcomers to contribute, and they got it.
“With a modern and familiar interface with well-designed tools, using GitLab makes the GNOME community more approachable – especially to a new generation of newcomers that is used to products that are modern-looking and easy to use,” says Nuritzi. They’ve also noticed that by using a single tool and having everyone under the same roof (as it were!), there’s more opportunity for teams to work together and cross-pollinate, resulting in a more engaged and collaborative community.
Apart from an easier workflow for newcomers and improved collaboration and cohesion between teams, GNOME has picked up on an unexpected benefit: the return of old projects and an influx of new ones. The ease of creating personal projects in GitLab has fostered better proximity between GNOME’s community of developers and projects, even if they aren’t part of the official GNOME project. “This allows those projects to be closer to our community of developers and products, and helps us increase our reach,” says Nuritzi. “We’re also very pleased to see that some major Linux distributions have begun to move part of their operations to groups in GNOME’s GitLab. This has allowed more collaboration between GNOME and these distributions, and is a great step forward in helping to create a tighter-knit broader community.”
This improved closeness and reach is what we’re really excited about – when it comes to open source communities using GitLab, the more the merrier we say! It’s our hope that the boost in collaboration and networking GNOME has experienced will extend to our own community, as well as those of other open source projects moving to GitLab.
How to contribute
In keeping with our own vision of “everyone can contribute,” GNOME has opportunities for contributors from all backgrounds. “If you like marketing and community management, we have the engagement team, if you’re into doing translations and documentation, we have the teams for that. If you like designing software, we have the design team. And if you want to contribute code, there are many projects with maintainers who welcome newcomers and can help answer the questions they may have,” says Nuritzi. “Each team has its own resources and workflows, but we all belong to the larger GNOME community with a common culture based on free software and open collaboration.” Visit gnome.com/get-involved to get started.