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Editorial: Compiz and Beryl Merger

It isn’t official yet, but Compiz and Beryl are merging. For the last few weeks I have been following the mailing list discussions on this topic. A lot of the work has been started. It is sort of unofficially announced, so I feel now is as good a time as any to comment. First some back story:

The war between Compiz and Beryl has been entertaining if counterproductive. Originally I planned to interview Quinn (Beryl’s unofficial leader) about the Beryl project. That turned into an interview with the team that never really got anywhere. I dropped the ball. My feelings at the time were typical of those in the community. Beryl seemed to be this fantastic project that saved Compiz from being boring and a slave to Novell. They launched a beautiful website. It was exciting to see the frequency of their releases. At the time, I decided to check out Compiz to see what it was up to. It was surprising. Their forums were very helpful and positive. The more I read, the more I realized that I had made a mistake. There was more to the story than I was aware.

The communities were getting along a lot worse than I had realized. People in the Beryl camp dismissed David Reveman (creator of Compiz and XGL among other things) as a bad coder. Compiz dismissed Beryl as hacky code. Personal attacks flew around. Through decisions made with (hopefully) good intentions, like the insistence that Beryl code be GPL (thus unable to move upstream to the MIT licensed Compiz core) or the desire on some Beryl developers part to rip apart the Compiz core and ” improve” it, it looked as if the teams were hopelessly split.

Meanwhile, Beryl continued to grow. Resentment grew in the Compiz community. One estimate was that Beryl used 95% Compiz code while taking all the credit. YouTube filled up with tons of spinning transparent cubes and burning windows. Any Digg story mentioning Beryl received a lot of Diggs. Flamewars in comment sections broke out regularly. Things reached a low point when a frustrated Compiz community member hacked the Beryl site.

This state of affairs was a shame. Something that was finally getting the general public excited about Linux, the 3D desktop, was wasting time with duplication of effort and fighting. There were concerns about the long term viability of Beryl. The perception in the community overall was, Compiz = old and stale, Beryl = fresh and exciting. This despite the feeling in the Compiz community that the “real work” was being done by David Reveman and Compiz, and there were exciting things with Compiz core (like input redirection, etc…) on the horizon.

It was a pleasant surprise to see talks of a merge start to show up on the mailing lists. This article by Kristian Hogsberg seemed to kick it off. The talks so far have been bumpy. There are fights about whether to rename the communities. There are heated discussions about what the merger means and where things should go from here. Old wounds have been reopened. There are complaints about the egos of the developers in the forums. At one point, reading a twenty-four page forum discussion, I wondered if the merge was a good idea after all. Little by little things seem to be working out, though. Quinn mentioned in one forum post that the fork was a mistake and regrettable. It takes a big person to make an admission like that.

I have to hand it to both communities. This is a brave and bold step. Not many of us can check our egos, put hurt feelings aside and move forward. The road ahead won’t be easy, but the benefit to the Linux community will be immense. Energy won’t be wasted on fights and duplication of effort. Confusion over what to use will be eliminated. Hopefully more effort can be spent by the distributions on getting the combined product packaged properly (How many times can I install a distro and the 3d desktop only to have no window borders in KDE?). The discussions I read are passionate. It looks like the project will be a meritocracy, which works the best in Free Software. My take is that at this point, it is best for both teams to focus on the code and technical details, trust each other and then make decisions on what to name it down the road. It seems early to deal with emotional things like what to name it. As everyone gets used to working together, tough decisions like that should come easily. Trust and respect will be established and the name calling will cease.

I don’t want to be over dramatic, but this could not have come at a better time. The 3d desktop is the first thing to grab the general public’s imagination and push people into trying out Linux. Compiz and Beryl provide an experience you really can’t get on Windows or Mac. There is an exciting Wild West feel to the projects. As things mature, this will be what brings Linux to the mainstream. The passion everyone involved feels may look like a negative. It is the project’s greatest strength.

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April 2nd, 2007 Posted by admin | Compiz, beryl, Editorial | 11 comments


  1. great article! hope things are really going the way you described it :)

    Comment by MilesTeg | April 3, 2007

  2. […] according to this guy, possibly. I don’t want to be over dramatic, but this could not have come at a better time. The 3d desktop is the first thing to grab the general public’s imagination and push people into trying out Linux. Compiz and Beryl provide an experience you really can’t get on Windows or Mac. There is an exciting Wild West feel to the projects. As things mature, this will be what brings Linux to the mainstream. The passion everyone involved feels may look like a negative. It is the project’s greatest strength. This entry is filed under pc/linux, Beryl. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. Leave a Reply […]

    Pingback by BEERORKID - A bunch of useless crap Lincoln Ne » compiz and beryl to merge? | April 3, 2007

  3. […] read more | digg story […]

    Pingback by Schlak Shack » Blog Archive » Editorial: Compiz and Beryl Merger | April 3, 2007

  4. […] read more | digg story […]

    Pingback by Editorial: Compiz and Beryl Merger « Tech Enthusiast | April 3, 2007

  5. […] Linux Tech Daily Beryl and Compiz merging? haven’t followed the lists myself, but i’m for it if it’s realistic (tags: Beryl Compiz 3D desktop Linux) […]

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  6. […] Sursa […]

    Pingback by BlackNight’s cyberhome » Blog Archive » Beryl si Compiz vor fuziona | April 4, 2007

  7. A healthy competition between to projects is not a negative thing, it spurs different approaches and creativity. A good likeness come’s to mind Gnome vs. KDE.


    Comment by Old Digger | April 4, 2007

  8. […] 1. Θα δουλεύει το 3D όπως είναι διαθέσιμο από τη διανομή Fedora Core 6. Δηλαδή θα είναι μια επιλογή στις Προτιμήσεις με το όνομα Desktop Effects. Ελπίζω να το μεταφράσαμε Αν έχετε κάρτα γραφικών Intel, τότε το 3D desktop θα δουλεύει άμεσα, δίχως ανάγκη εγκατάστασης άλλου λογισμικού. Το 3D desktop δεν βασίζεται στο Beryl αλλά στο Compiz, window managers. Ποιο είναι πιο καλό; Το Compiz φαίνεται να είναι αυτό που έχει όλο τον αρχικό κώδικα ενώ το Beryl έχει κάνει τρομερή δουλειά στο marketing και στις μικρορυθμίσεις/plugins. Σε κάθε περίπτωση τα δύο έργα ανακοίνωσαν ότι θα συγχωνευτούν και φαίνεται να οδεύουν στην κατεύθυνση αυτή. […]

    Pingback by Mi blog lah! » Re: 11 Things You Haven’t Seen Yet in Ubuntu Feisty Fawn | April 4, 2007

  9. Sometimes “healthy” competition does drive each to do their best to outdo each other, or simply to keep up, fostering different approaches and creativity, like with KDE vs Gnome or possibly Compiz vs Beryl, but it also divides developer effort and is one of the things keeping Linux back from mainstream adoption. Since there is no centralised planning and overall boss of Linux, merely a collection of parts each with their own loosely-held together organisations, unlikethe BSDs you end up with a hundred distributions each with their own take, which causes confusion. And they are not all compatible. There is no one way to install software, one package format. That hampers developer support as well.
    What the average user first sees and interacts with is the desktop; but they are faced with 2 main “Desktop Environments” with very different ways of doing things and different looks. There is no consistent or official Linux “look” or behavior. Even if you go with one environment, you are faced with running KDE apps under Gnome or Gnome apps under KDE with lots of K- or G-named apps referring to their Desktop Environment rather than being descriptive of what they do.
    In short, it’s a dog’s breakfast, and along with all the half-finished apps, missing codecs and graphics drivers, comes across as unprofessional and unpolished. So people are likely to think, let’s stick with an environment we know and trust, Windows.
    Neither will the end user want to have to choose between Compiz and Beryl, even if they know or understand what they are. Why should they know or care what a Window Manager or Composition Manager is. One must eventually be integrated seamlessly into the environment, with no red crystal etc on the menu bar, a natural part of the OS, not a mere add-on component, configured the way any system component is.

    Comment by msandersen | April 11, 2007

  10. Great article!


    As you say, it should be totally integrated into most distros. In Ubuntu Feisty Fawn, you can see something like that.

    Comment by Niclas Eriksen | April 15, 2007

  11. I agree with msanderson this is a good move, as most of the “competition” between projects just brings confusion to users in the end. I think that the fact there are 1000s of distros has the same effect. No one person could even compare all the distros… I’m sorry but that’s too many and wasted effort.

    Comment by Motorcycle Guy | April 24, 2007

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