A snapshot of the Wayland display server has been uploaded to the Ubuntu 11.04 Universe repository. Canonical developer Bryce Harrington says in his announcement that this has little relevance to end users and is experimental code intended to act as a foundation and starting point for packaging and further development work.
The Wayland snapshot is not even the most recent code but an older snapshot which is now several months out of date. This is because the older code is compatible with the Mesa 7.10 graphics library used in Ubuntu 11.04, itself due for release in April. Harrington says he hopes to replace the snapshot with another that is a little more recent, but even that would be from January and so will still be a little out of date.
Wayland is a C library implementation of a protocol for an image compositor to talk to its clients. Mark Shuttleworth had announced that Ubuntu would in the medium term move away from the current X11 based graphics and windowing system, as X11 was not suitable for delivering the user experience that Canonical is aiming for with its new Unity desktop shell. At present, it is expected that Wayland will be introduced at the earliest in Ubuntu 11.10, due for release in October 2011.
The X Window System, originally developed at MIT in 1984, has been criticised because, for historical reasons, its underlying architecture was designed to display graphical interfaces on multiple terminals running on a time shared server.
While today the X Window System is frequently used on independent desktop systems, it carries with it underlying code and design features which are unnecessary for such a desktop system. Wayland, started in 2008, is a relatively recent attempt to jettison some of this baggage.
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