December 15, 2020

A Message from the President

Rob McQueen was a teenage GNOME user who later became President of the Board of the GNOME Foundation. Rob shared his passion for GNOME and vision for the future with us, and we’re excited to share with you. Learn more about how you can support us in building this future.

I started using GNOME when I was a teenager because I had an old computer, and wanted to learn more about how the Internet worked. I installed Debian and set up GNOME because it was free and helped me use my computer the way I wanted. GNOME’s principled position on software freedom turned me into a user, and it is what has inspired me to become active in the community, run for the Board of Directors, and ultimately find direction in my life, using software as a means to promote global equality.

I’ve been on the GNOME Board of Directors for several years now, elected by the GNOME Foundation membership to realize their vision for the future of GNOME. I am the CEO of a nonprofit called the Endless OS Foundation, and I have four children, but I always make time for my GNOME responsibilities because I believe in the power of the project to bring computing to those who didn’t enjoy the same opportunities in life as me.

I believe in software freedom, and GNOME does too. When I was that curious teenager, access to source code was enough, but I now understand that user freedom is the goal. We must hold technology accountable and resist control by external parties who restrict how people can access information and technology, and you as a user need to be able to trust the systems you are using.

As with all free and open source software projects, GNOME has areas for improvement. I am particularly concerned about retaining and growing our contributor community. We have fantastic efforts around engagement and outreach, including events, internships, and newcomer initiatives. However, not enough of these people stay around. I want GNOME to grow sustainably, and part of that is having a strong and diverse contributor base that reflects the users we want to reach.

One of the reasons people don’t stay around is because they cannot afford to. I am privileged in my ability to work on GNOME – as are many contributors. We have the financial resources and time to focus on building better technology for others, or maybe even do so as part of a paid job, but most are not in that position. In a perfect world, the Foundation would be able to address this directly with a budget of millions, but, we don’t yet live in that world. To reach our goals, we’re building partnerships through initiatives like GNOME Circle, creating structured opportunities for projects and organizations to join the Foundation; organizing the Community Engagement Challenge with Endless; and working to remove barriers and provide incentives to get involved with the GNOME ecosystem.

I’m excited about everything GNOME has done in 2020 – I had fun at GUADEC even though I was home, as opposed to in Mexico. Flathub grew to over 1000 apps and now provides a compelling independent app store, helping people do the things they need while embracing free and open source software on their personal computer. From a technology geekery perspective, GTK4 looks really, really cool. GTK3 came out nearly 10 years ago, and some of the ideas that GTK4 brings to life have been building for nearly that long. Together with an amazing team of contributors from across the GNOME ecosystem, the Foundation also employs Emmanuele Bassi to work on GTK full time, and version 4 is going to be here .

For me, 2021 will be a year of working on Foundation strategy and outcomes. The Board of Directors has been looking in depth at what we’re building and for who, and how we can make sure GNOME works for everyone, regardless of their ability, geography, or resources. We’re going to reach more users and bring them the control and trust they need from their technology.

Rob McQueen

President of the Board of Directors

GNOME Foundation