Wandering Thoughts archives


The technical merits of Wayland are mostly irrelevant

Today I read Wayland breaks your bad software (via), which is in large part an inventory of how Wayland is technically superior to X. I don't particularly disagree with Wayland's general technical merits and improvements, but at this point I think that they are mostly irrelevant. As such, I don't think that talking about them will do much to shift more people to Wayland.

(Of course, people have other reasons to talk about Wayland's technical merits. But a certain amount of this sort of writing seems to be aimed at persuading people to switch.)

I say that the technical merits are irrelevant because I don't believe that they're a major factor any more in most people moving or not moving to Wayland. At this point in time (and from my vantage point), there are roughly four groups of people still in the X camp:

  • People on Unix environments that don't have Wayland support. They have to use X or not have a graphical experience.

    (Suggesting that these people change to a Linux environment with Wayland support is a non-starter; they are presumably using their current environment for good reasons.)

  • People using mainstream desktop environments that already support Wayland, primarily GNOME and KDE, in relatively stock ways. Switching to Wayland is generally transparent for these people and happens when their Linux distribution decides to change the default for their hardware. If their Linux distribution has not switched the default, there is often good reason for it.

    Most of these people will switch over time as their distribution changes defaults, and they're unlikely to switch before then.

  • People using desktop environments or custom X setups that don't (currently) support Wayland. Switching to Wayland is extremely non-transparent for these people because they will have to change their desktop environment (so far, to GNOME or KDE) or reconstruct a Wayland version of it. Back in 2021, this included XFCE and Cinnamon, and based on modest Internet searches I believe it still does.

    One can hope that some of these desktop environments will get Wayland support over time, moving people using them up into the previous category (and probably moving them to Wayland users). However the primary bottleneck for this is probably time and attention from developers (who by now probably have heard lots about why people think they should add support for Wayland and its technical merits).

  • People who could theoretically switch to Wayland and who might gain benefits from doing so, but who have found good reasons (often related to hardware support) that X works better for them (cf some of the replies to my Fediverse post).

(There are other smaller groups not included here, such as people who have a critical reliance on X features not yet well supported in Wayland.)

With only a slight amount of generalization, none of these people will be moved by Wayland's technical merits. The energetic people who could be persuaded by technical merits to go through switching desktop environments or in some cases replacing hardware (or accepting limited features) have mostly moved to Wayland already. The people who remain on X are there either because they don't want to rebuild their desktop environment, they don't want to do without features and performance they currently have, or their Linux distribution doesn't think their desktop should switch to Wayland yet.

There are still some people who would get enough benefit from what Wayland improves over X that it would be worth their time and effort to switch, even at the cost of rebuilding their desktop environment (and possibly losing some features, because there are things that X does better than Wayland today). But I don't think there are very many of them left by now, and if they're out there, they're hard to reach, since the Wayland people have been banging this drum for quite a while now.

(My distant personal view of Wayland hasn't changed since 2021, since Cinnamon still hasn't become Wayland enabled as far as I know.)

PS: The other sense that Wayland's technical merits are mostly irrelevant is that everyone agrees that Wayland is the future of Unix graphics and development of the X server is dead. Unless and until people show up to revive X server development, Wayland is the only game in town, and when you have a monopoly, your technical merits don't really matter.

unix/WaylandTechnicalMeritsIrrelevant written at 23:04:05; Add Comment

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