It’s never nice to write about a promising open source project retreating from its ambitions, but that’s precisely what’s happened to Glimpse.
Glimpse’s existence has always been (somewhat undeservedly, I think) controversial, right from its inception back in 2019. A well-intended project, those working on Glimpse simply wanted to bring the powerful feature set of the GIMP image editor to more people.
And to do that? Well, they felt the app needed at the very least a less contentious name, icon, and branding.
Regardless of whether you or I find the name “GIMP” contentious the fact is that others do. The term carries different meanings in different parts of the world, including use as a pejorative insult (though is that a tautology?).
So regardless of where people sit individually on the issue of its name, the creation of Glimpse seemed like a reasonable resolution to the whole dilemma.
It meant people who are not fussed by the name GIMP can continue to use it, and those who were put off could switch to Glimpse and be happy. Plus, as major code contributions made to Glimpse would filter back to down GIMP (and vice versa) it was a win-win, surely?
Not that a more marketable name was the sole motivation here, either.
Glimpse devs had big plans for the future. Work on a major UI rewrite (dubbed Glimpse NX) was getting underway as the editor’s work team sought to offer up a more tangible differentiation from its upstream source.
Sadly, none of that is going to happen for now.
Contributors Spread Thin
In a post on the Glimpse blog the project founder, Bobby Moss, explains the reasons why he feels unable to continue leading the project (tl;dr: coronavirus). The fallout from the ongoing pandemic (and the economic uncertainty therein) has stretched Glimpse’s contributors thin.
“By the second half of 2020, there was just me (Bobby Moss) and a couple of external contributors working on the fork itself. Our other remaining project contributors were occupied with trying to start the UI rewrite,” Moss writes, adding that the image editor’s burgeoning user base was, surprisingly, a major stick in the spokes:
“Our problem was not a lack of financial contributions or users, because the project was still growing in those areas. Our main issue was that we could not find contributors willing to step up and help with non-code tasks […] As a result, we struggled to scale the project to match increasing demand.”
This is open source software. Nothing every ‘dies’. The Glimpse project could make a comeback sometime in the future. All it takes is a bit renewed interest and a dose of enthusiasm.
“We can take pride in what we achieved,” Moss adds.
“We demonstrated that there is a demand for a fork of the GNU Image Manipulation Program with better branding. We successfully weathered a four-month-long storm of undeserved criticism & trolling in 2019 before we had even produced our first release.”
If you currently use Glimpse you do not need to panic; you can continue to use Glimpse without any issues. Just be mindful that no further updates will be forthcoming and if you find any bugs they are unlikely to be fixed.
The recommended alternative to Glimpse? GIMP.