GNOME 3.38 app grid

Here’s a curve ball: GNOME developers have announced that the next major stable release of the desktop environment will come with a new version number.

And no: I don’t mean GNOME 3.40 as you (and me) might’ve been expecting. With the current GNOME 3.38 release you might be expecting it. After all, that follows on from GNOME 3.36, that from 3.34, and so on going all the way back to 2011 and GNOME 3.0.

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But GNOME 40 will be the next stable release.

Yes, GNOME 40.

Since there’s a rather dramatic leap between GNOME 3.0 and GNOME 40 (37 if you’re keeping count) you might be wondering what’s going on and why.

Enter the GNOME Foundation’s Emmanuele Bassi who, in a forum post to unveil the new versioning, explains the reasoning behind the leap. And the short answer is to simplify the ‘unwieldy’ numbering.

Dropping the “3.” prefix underlines the fact that GNOME 40 is a set of technologies different to those introduced back in GNOME 3.0, but not to the degree that would warrant a “GNOME 4.0” branching.

And with GTK 4.0 on the way too there’s a chance things could get a bit confusing for users and developers …and the marketing team.

But as the number “40” isn’t a total clean break from “3.38” (as 40 follows 38) there’s still a connection and continuation from GNOME next to GNOME now.

Changing the version number underlines the fact that GNOME 40 is different beast to GNOME 3.0

The changes don’t stop there, either.

The GNOME 40 development cycle will continue to use pre-release milestones but there will a) be fewer of them and b) they won’t use uneven numbers. For context, GNOME 3.37 was the development version of GNOME 3.38, GNOME 3.35 was the development version of GNOME 3.36, and so on going back until the time of the dinosaurs (maybe not that far).


After GNOME 40 is released in March 2021 a series of point releases will follow. These will be numbered GNOME 40.1, GNOME 40.2, and so on (though the emphasis is mine).

In October of next year GNOME 41 will be released. The version after that GNOME 42, and so on.

Whether the label reads GNOME 3.40 or GNOME 40, it doesn’t strictly matter. Underneath, it’s still the same hugely popular, user-focused desktop environment.

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