GNOME Project retires OpenGL rendering library Clutter

RIP. You brought hardware-accelerated 3D to many Linux programs

The GNOME Project has announced that it's retiring the Clutter library, the tool that bought OpenGL-based hardware rendering to Linux in 2006.

Clutter was originally written by now-Intel subsidiary OpenedHand and in its day was a widely used library, enabling GObject-based C code to draw user interfaces using OpenGL.

It brought hardware-accelerated 3D to a lot of Linux programs, including the Mutter window manager (Metacity + Clutter) used by GNOME Shell, System76's COSMIC desktop and Raspberry Pi's PIXEL. The Cinnamon desktop uses a fork of Mutter called Muffin.

These days GNOME's version of Mutter "uses a fork of Cogl, a hardware acceleration abstraction library used to simplify usage of OpenGL pipelines, as well as a fork of Clutter, a scene graph and user interface toolkit."

Clutter is indirectly the reason that lots of people found that GNOME 3 and Ubuntu's Unity ran poorly under VirtualBox.

By default, VMs use software OpenGL rendering, making anything that used Clutter sluggish unless you enabled 3D acceleration and installed the VirtualBox guest extensions.

GNOME 40 and Gtk 4 subsumed and replaced the functionality of the standalone Clutter library.

So as far as the GNOME project is concerned, it's now surplus to requirements, and as of the next version, GNOME 42, it will be removed and the source code moved to the Gitlab archive.

To be fair, Clutter has been stable for a long time. The latest version, Clutter 1.26, was back in 2016 and even the last point release, 1.26.4 was in 2020.

However, a lot of other Gtk-based desktops haven't moved to Gtk 4 yet, including MATE, Xfce, Pantheon and Pixel. It's possible that someone will have to fork and continue the original Clutter if they come across a deal-breaker of a bug. ®

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