Canonical has announced that the next edition of Ubuntu, 21.04, will use Wayland as the default X server. But what does this mean?
Ubuntu 21.04, the next version, will replace the traditional X.Org GUI with Wayland
Unix systems can run strictly in text mode, but if they use a type of application known as an ‘X server’, they can deploy their own graphical system: Desktop, windows, etc. Thus, on Mac, their X server is XQuartz, while on Linux the predominant system is X.Org.
X.Org was born in 2004 as an evolution of the outdated XFree86. However, voices were quickly raised in the developer community proclaiming the need for an X server written from scratch and not burdened with legacy code and obsolete components.
Wayland was previously used by Ubuntu
Thus, in 2008, the Wayland project was launched. Mark Shuttleworth, CEO of Canonical, affirmed only two years later Ubuntu’s intention to jump on this new boat. But the development of Wayland ended up facing more obstacles than expected, which delayed its adoption.
Finally, four years ago, Canonical released Ubuntu 17.10, an edition that came with several new features in its graphic system: Although the most talked about was its abandonment of the Unity desktop in favor of GNOME Shell, it also highlighted the change from X.org to Wayland.
However, despite the advances, Wayland was still not a sufficiently refined product for the needs of Ubuntu, so they decided to return to X.Org in its next version.
A new opportunity has risen
But now, given the release of the future Ubuntu 21.04, they announce that they have decided to give Wayland a new chance: “Given that some of the hurdles from back then [Ubuntu 17.10] have been resolved, we believe that now is the right time to try again: It should give us enough time to get the right feedback before the next LTS release”.
However, Wayland is still limping in one aspect: Its support for Nvidia cards, so Nvidia users will still see X.Org installed by default in their systems, an aspect that they hope to have solved within a year.
The truth is that Wayland has been advancing very slowly but steadily, and it has been two years since Red Hat, one of the major contributors of X.Org code, proposed to the Unix community to stop the development of this X server (limiting itself to bug fixes) to bet definitively on Wayland as its replacement. Its adoption by Ubuntu could help to take that step.