In 1984 the MIT started X11.
In 1991, XFree86 started out of the X386 server based on the X11 platform.
In 2003, Xorg took over from XFree86 after a license dispute.
In 2008, Wayland was started to overhaul the entire system and keep only what's necessary for the desktop today, using only today's modern infrastructure in a leightweight architecture.
Over all this time, backwards compatibility has been a major issue. But after some decades you need to shed some of that compatibility if you want to remain an ideal solution for today's problems. That's what Linux does and that's what the 2.6 kernel was all about. That's the big advantage of open source.
As everything is open and adjustable, you can change even the underlying infrastructure. You can modify all software to run on top of the new infrastructure. But the nice thing is that usually there's not even need for that, as most software uses libraries which abstract the underlying infrastructure. This means all you need is to adjust a few libraries to make things run on the new infrastructure. The great thing about open source is that you can fix things where they are best fixed.
In this case all you need to do is adjust the GTK and Qt so that the KDE and GNOME desktops, among many other software, can run natively in Wayland. This means a 50 MB run time piece of software with I wish I knew how many millions of lines of code can be replaced by a few thousand lines of code (tiny!) application that really just does what you expect: Mediate between the libraries and the graphics driver.
Now that you know the facts, you do the thinking: If you strip away a layer of millions of lines of code between point A and B, do you think the way will become faster? Do you think there is less to carry? Is it likely that Wayland will use less memory and be faster? Will bugs be easier to fix if there are only a few thousand lines of code? Will it fit better on netbooks, on (Android) phones, on tablets etc?
If you think it's not more than an idea yet, let me tell you: It's already a working in basic steps. If you look at the videos and screenshots posted below, you can see it's already running in several configurations and if you read the mailing list you find out it doesn't seem to be that hard to adapt to other hardware, either. Also Phoronix writes there is already a patch implementing basic /dev/fb support, meaning it can then run on basically any hardware, just without hardware acceleration. This is confirmed in the mailing list.
But I know it's not all perfect and rosy. It will take time to get there. There will probably be a time when speed is lower, suspend less reliable, and above all it may take time for a suitable remote desktop solution to establish. But even that does not seem to be a major problem of the architecture.
But would that justify keeping 24 years of dead weight?
- Why X Is Not Our Ideal Window System
- Life beyond X.
- Why Wayland is good for the future of Ubuntu, Canonical, etc.
- Is Shuttleworth Crazy, Brave, or Smart?
- How Important Is The Wayland Display Server?
- Wayland: A New X Server For Linux
- And if you're the visual type, here are some Screenshots and a Video.
- The ultimate source of information, the developer former and current mailing list and the git repository.
If you liked this article, you might want to subscribe for more.