Do you love Ubuntu Linux but hate Canonical's Unity interface? If so, there may be good news on the horizon regarding an official version of Ubuntu using the open source MATE desktop environment, if the rumor mill has things right.

MATE—apparently pronounced mat-ay, in the same fashion as the herbal beverage—is a fork of the GNOME 2 desktop environment. GNOME 2 was the interface that millions of Linux users knew and loved until the GNOME developers retired it in favor of GNOME 3 circa 2011, around the same time that Canonical introduced its homegrown Unity environment as the default graphical interface for Ubuntu.

It's eminently possible to run MATE on Ubuntu today by adding it to an existing Ubuntu system or using a third-party "remix," such as Mubuntu. But rumor has it Canonical may be considering the release of an official Ubuntu "flavor" with MATE installed by default. That would mean Ubuntu users who prefer the GNOME 2/MATE approach to interacting with one's computer would enjoy a way of doing so on Ubuntu with official support. It also could help Ubuntu to appeal to users who are new to the Linux world and unfamiliar with the "shell"-type interfaces that have become popular within the open source community in recent years, but which are much less similar than MATE to the interfaces of Windows and OS X.

Meanwhile, such a move would be a huge boon to the MATE project, which originated as the humble initiative of a single open source developer back in 2011. Since then, MATE has matured to become an official (though not default) option in a few major Linux distributions, including Linux Mint and Fedora, but an endorsement by Canonical for integrating MATE into Ubuntu would elevate the desktop environment to the top of the desktop Linux hierarchy.

For now, though, the prospect of a MATE-based Ubuntu build remains mostly speculative. And until something concrete materializes, I'll be running gnome-panel and compiz to keep living in the pre-Ubuntu 11.04 past.