We run into this misconception fairly regularly and it's understandable why from a historical perspective: KDE started out as a "desktop environment project". But come on ... we've only had a fairly clear distinction between desktop and applications for how many years now?
But wait .. it's not clear! Otherwise I wouldn't read stuff like this:
"Amarok sure inspires a lot of KDE-envy for Gnome users. Unfortunately, it doesn’t fit in well in Gnome: It’s written for a different desktop environment, uses a whole different toolkit, and requires a lot of extra libraries to run." - Free Software Magazine, article
The article goes on to pimp Rhythmbox which is all well and good. Use what you want, I say. Make educated decisions and you'll come out further ahead, I also say: If you're suffering from "Amarok envy" and it's the use of KDE libraries that puts you off ... it's time for a re-think.
Let's take the author's complaints one point at a time:
- "It’s written for a different desktop environment": no, it's not. It's written using libraries that come from the KDE project, Qt Software and a handful of other projects. It has nothing to do with a desktop environment, which is something you log into and not an application framework. If Firefox runs on Windows ... is it written for Windows? hmm....
- "uses a whole different toolkit": Sure does, and what's the problem with that? With Qt4, it blends rather seamlessly if you use the Qt4 Gtk theme style. Button order is even swapped on dialogs to fit in with GNOME's idea of proper button order. If you're worried about memory usage, unless you're suffering away on a machine with 256MB of RAM you're worried about all the wrongs things.
- "requires a lot of extra libraries to run": unlike Rhythmbox? *cough* Looking at Amarok's CMakeLists.txt it taps into taglib (very popuplar lib among various players), libgpod (which drags in glib and gdkpixbuf optionally), musicbrainz (Rhythmbox uses this, too), nepomuk, loudmouth, curl, libxml2, openssl ... in other words, stuff you probably already have on your system and of those you might not, are pretty tiny in and of themselves. The only exception to the tiny part would be the Qt and KDE libs, but having those around (and they aren't exactly huge in terms of disk space) opens up a lot of application options to you beyond even just Amarok.
So Amarok fits just fine, and does so on many platforms that are more exotically different from the KDE desktop than GNOME is. So why does this attitude persist?
It's tempting to just say, "Well, the person who wrote that article was obviously not qualified to write such an article." or "People who aren't down with the KDE project will grasp at any straw to make excuses for avoiding applications that run just fine elsewhere." There may even be shades of truth in there, but it's probably not the whole picture. Not only does it ascribe way too much actual intention to the probably honestly mistaken user, it avoids this bit of truth:
When it comes to public perception,
we hold our reputation in our own hand.
we hold our reputation in our own hand.
That is why marketing and communications exists as a discipline: to share with others in a convincing manner what your strengths are, what your unique points are, what your attributes are .. even what your weaknesses are.
So can we blame anyone but ourselves when people wander about saying and writing silly things like the above? No. Public perception starts with us. This does not mean it's a simple task, one we will always succeed at or one that can be accomplished in a day, a week or even a month. It's often a fairly arduous task that takes application over the long haul, but which in the end can be successful.
In this particular case, I believe we need to stop promoting the KDE desktop as "KDE". Now that we have a really solid application development platform, tons of applications (and application suites) that stand on their own as well as a desktop environment, it's no longer wise to keep the term "KDE" as a shorthand for "that thing you log into that the KDE team writes".
It's too confusing for the consumer, who gets tangled up in the distinction between desktop and applications. (In part, this happens because our integration is so terrific that it's obvious that these apps work well together, to the point that maybe they even require each other!) It gives people like the writer of the aforementioned article an excuse (and perhaps even a valid one) to further spread that confusion.
Quietly, I've been pushing for some changes here and there. At the beginning of this year, we changed the "What is KDE text", as can be seen in press releases and on kde.org: it used to say that KDE was a modern desktop environment, now it says that KDE is an international team that creates Free software. This change in language was not accidental.
Such subtleties are not enough, though. It's obvious and evident given the continued popular misconceptions about the relationship between the KDE workspace and KDE applications that it's not enough.
I've quietly floated a proposal to start using our public communication to make it much more clear where the lines are drawn. In particular, I want to see the KDE workspace marketed under it's own KDE sub-brand. Just as we have "Amarok" or "KOffice" as brands beneath the KDE umbrella (which is not the KDE workspace!), I want to see a brand for the KDE workspace applications so that we can refer to them as something distinct so as to clarify the waters around the meaning of "KDE". This can give us a base on which to build a clear and consistent set of lines around the dev platform (which probably also deserves a brand of its own), the workspace and the applications. They are all "KDE", they all work really well together, share so much technology with each other .. but are also separable and individually valuable pieces. The workspace itself really doesn't deserve to hog the name "KDE" to itself.
While these lines are all pretty obvious to most of us close to KDE, it's painfully obvious it isn't to the world just beyond our own village.
The Marketing Working Group have taken my proposal under consideration and have drafted a somewhat lengthy position proposition out of that proposal. I've been waiting for a bit to see it hit the light of day, though I must confess that every day that passes in which I read another article confusing "KDE" and "the KDE workspace" I grow a little more impatient.