Gnome3 on its release on April 6 2011 was touted as the next generation of GNOME in nine long years. The highlight of Gnome 3, is the brand new user interface for new, modern desktop for modern technologies. Besides, Gnome 2 had a very long life and maintaining it, technically, was reaching the point of ‘critical mass.’ Secondly, Gnome 3 aims to get rid of a lot of clutter on the desktop.
However, the very reasons why Gnome 3 was evolved is now taking a beating, especially after Fedora , put Gnome 3 (in its yet fledging state) as default.
Core features of Gnome 3 that truly puts developers in a fix
A single-use-per-window type of feature is one of the key non-drivers for Gnome 3. Minimize, maximize buttons replaced by double-clicking, right clicking on the window border, shortcuts. Therefore, what essentially, happens is that there can be only one window open at all times and whether casual or power users, the experience of using Gnome 3 becomes a major strain.
Gnome 3 anticipated some of design debates, but as the above answers in the link reveal, most anwers are not very satisfying.
Trickle of users switching from Gnome 3 to other distros gaining ground
Post Gnome 3 release, talk of fork seems to have subsided. The forerunner was EXDE with talks of offering a Gnome 2 fork, on the line of Trinityfork on KDE 3.5. However, the project seems to have lost steam even before it started because there was really not too much support to start with. Gnome 3 developers themselves have time and again said, there is nothing left within Gnome 2 to offer long-term support and hence technically developing anything based on Gnome 2 versions will quickly become a dead end.
Therefore, most users and community are seeking alternatives to Gnome 3.
Are there truly substantial alternatives to Gnome 3?
The first option that most are following is tracking back to distros that are yet offering Gnome 2 support. Luckily, pretty much most are offering it, with the exception of Fedora and so switching to less popular distros will keep users in good stead for the next few years.
Trending Gnome 3 alternative distros
Heading the list in terms of years of Gnome 2 support are Scientific Linux closely followed by Debian Squeeze essentially because, these two projects have several years to go on Gnome 2. The lastest Ubuntu LTS release has around two years more of Gnome 2 support.
Of course, there will be minor handicaps of not being able to use some of the modern, ‘cutting-edge’ technologies and there are endless numbers of distros offering gnome 2.
And then there is Xfce, which is a light-weight Gnome 2. If offers developers the right capabilities to time and again build low-resource, fully capable desktop.
The most migration in terms of numbers seems to be towards Xfce and there is definitely space for more.