Ubuntu Linux and Wayland Display Server: Status Update

Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth announced Wayland graphical server for Ubuntu, the Linux distribution, in fall 2010. Wayland for Ubuntu news made headlines. But almost a year later, Wayland for Ubuntu remains in development and the venerable X server won't be going anywhere soon -- which is not surprising, since replacing a display system that has dominated the open source world for decades is hard work. But when can we expect Wayland for Ubuntu to hit the mainstream? Read on for some updates.

Canonical isn't alone in turning its gaze to Wayland. MeeGo, the Linux-based operating system for mobile devices, has also moved toward the new display system. Other desktop Linux distributions, including Fedora, have also indicated they'll likely adopt it when it matures. Ubuntu, however, is the only major platform that has already made an unqualified commitment to Wayland.

Wherefore Art Thou, Wayland?

Since the Ubuntu-Wayland buzz last fall, the project has been steadily progressing, and its slow integration into the Ubuntu world has begun. Packages for it exist in Ubuntu 11.04 and 11.10, and a Launchpad PPA (which is currently not public) has been created.

So far, though, Wayland currently can't do much more than this:

Nonetheless, these proof-of-concept demonstrations show Wayland works, and Canonical seems to remain firmly committed to its adoption when it's mature. It's uncertain when that may be, but it's clear at this point it will not happen in time for the next long-term support (LTS) version of Ubuntu, 12.04.

When Wayland finally does arrive, though, it will mean important changes for both users and developers. On the surface, Ubuntu running Wayland won't look very different, as the changes are all on the back end. But the system should feel different -- and, hopefully, faster -- since Wayland's minimalist design promises much greater efficiency than megalithic X, which was not written with the needs of modern desktop computers and mobile devices.

At the same time, Wayland should simplify the lives of open source developers by shaving away a huge deal of complexity surrounding the graphical server. That may be just what Ubuntu needs at a moment when computing is increasingly shifting to small and portable devices, which are the last thing the original X developers had in mind. Taking advantage of 3D functionality, which in X depends on clumsy extensions rather than functionality built into the core of the display server, will also become easier.

For now, though, Wayland's official landing in Ubuntu remains way off. We'll look forward to its progression toward maturity.

Discuss this Video 12

Brad (not verified)
on Sep 26, 2011
Timgt; I would hardly agree with the statement that X sucks. You have to remember that the real power of Linux comes from little tools that work very well. For an operating system to build off of highly competent pieces makes it great. This is the fundamental reason why Windows sucks. It is only in the interest of MS to build ONE block operating system that "works", rather than concentrating on build the individual components that work VERY WELL that THEN constitute an operating system that works very well. So, I don't think you qualify this statement very well. Obviously nothing is perfect, but your statement is a very unambiguous statement with nothing backing it up. Also, your statement about bandwidth, and 1080p playback. Well, BluRay doesn't play with Linux because the "powers that be" have purposely restricted even releasing closed source software to ensure playback, just like these people tried to stop (and still are) trying to stop people from playing DVD's on Linux computers... So, this is an entirely different mixed bag of worms that I wouldn't be so quick to blame. ALSO, another issue with "the powers that be", one which is getting better, is graphics driver support. I have an ATI Radeon HD card and I use the ATI proprietary drivers (almost latest versions)... I have no problems playing 1080 videos, I have no problems with dual monitors, etc... So, again, not X !!! Drivers and software!!! For example, good Intel drivers for built-in GMA graphics adaptors can provide better video playback than bad drivers for non-built-in graphics adaptors (as in NVidia or ATI). And your statement about drivers/hardware, you are comparing apples and oranges here.. Windows has drivers.. These manufacturers play politics with providing drivers to Linux, when they should think along the perspective of providing drivers to their CUSTOMERS, regardless of operating system. I personally only buy hardware that works well with Linux, whether it be through proprietary or open drivers provided by the manufacturer or open source drivers provided by my operating system (GNU/Linux). So, I appreciate that you can see that Wayland will likely be good in the long-run, I hope this has been a little educational to help you in the future. Also, I don't know about video playback on NVidia, I only use ATI (still mad at NVidia for buying out Voodoo back in the day.. I'm a firm believer in competition, and Voodoo was the best, the standard setter back in the day, and because of one missed release, NVidia bought them out, scrapped them, etc... ) Hope this helps, Brad
Shane Fagan (not verified)
on Sep 23, 2011
Im pretty sure the people involved with that area of Ubuntu had said it was years off. They will only move when its completely safe.
on Sep 21, 2011
we need wayland to replace X ASAP me and thousands of users have switched back to Windows because of how totally crap X server is my massive community agrees that linux sucks until wayland is stable and standard hurry up and get it working you dopes
andy (not verified)
on Sep 21, 2011
Another issue with wayland is the need for it to have linux kms. and since kms symbols are gpl licensed, nvidia and fglrx blobs will be unable to links against them due to licensing issues. it will be fun to see how this will progress.
on Sep 21, 2011
tim: is X really that bad that it made Linux unusable for you? If you're a developer I can see how X might be frustrating in certain situations, but for normal users I've never thought it made much of a difference. Wayland should be faster and all that, which will be nice, but X has always worked well enough for me (except when I have complicated driver issues, but those usually stem from relying on closed-source proprietary drivers, in which case display issues aren't really X's fault).
David Gerard (not verified)
on Sep 21, 2011
The important thing about Wayland: 1. All the people developing it are X.Org developers. 2. Wayland will also be going in Fedora and, thus, Red Hat. 1. means Wayland actually is the successor to X. Think of it as X12.
on Sep 22, 2011
The problem for real world normal users is that X does not have enough bandwidth to have 2 monitors at 1080p and play one Blu-Ray quality movie. countless people in my community confirm this issue no matter how fast the PC is I have a Nvidia GTX470 and no linux OS provides me with acceptable Video speed... all 1080p movies have playback issues in linux on my setups iv tried everything to fix it i do not blame the drivers or my hardware since it works perfect in Windows like 10 times better
W (not verified)
on Sep 22, 2011
Wayland develoers are agree to swtich from GPL to MIT license.
ubersoldat (not verified)
on Sep 22, 2011
Please, please, please, please, I really hope Wayland, at least by customizing it, follows the server-client approach of X11. I love the look on others when I do some remote X magic.
chipster (not verified)
on Sep 22, 2011
I also enjoy remote X sessions. I'm not sure about Wayland, hope it does work out. I'd like to see NX technology included in X or Wayland.
Dave Edick (not verified)
on Sep 22, 2011
My issue is I don't think Wayland goes far enough. This would be a perfect opportunity to produce a unified rendering engine that handles both video and print output. Windows and OS X have both had this for years. Unified video and print rendering under Unix dates at least back to the Sun NEWS system. Why does Linux stay in the stone ages in this area?
muhammad ibraheem (not verified)
on Nov 2, 2011
muhammad ibraheem badin sindh pakistan if the chidren were no more this world is behind us thanks
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