The Work Ahead For Ubuntu 21.04 To Switch To Wayland By Default

Written by Michael Larabel in Ubuntu on 9 February 2021 at 06:12 AM EST. 27 Comments
Last month was the delightful news that Ubuntu 21.04 is aiming to use Wayland by default for non-NVIDIA systems on the GNOME desktop rather than the X.Org session. While there is two months to go until the Ubuntu 21.04 release, there still is more work ahead in making that shift a reality.

The Ubuntu developers working on the Wayland-by-default transition have made their Trello workboard now public and it offers a glimpse at some of their planning and challenges around this significant shift in moving to Wayland by default. Their motivation in doing so now is to ensure that by Ubuntu 22.04 LTS next year the Wayland support will be shining and in excellent shape given that it is a long-term support release.

Among the items worth pointing out from Ubuntu's Wayland Trello activities:

- Exploring the new standalone XWayland packages. That is the Red Hat / Fedora led work around pushing new standalone XWayland packages split from the X.Org Server code-base in order to ship more recent XWayland support than what's found in the aging X.Org Server 1.20 branch. With no signs of X.Org Server 1.21 coming, the goal here is to reliably ship the newest XWayland fixes/feature code without worrying about the rest of the X.Org tree. Ubuntu hasn't yet committed to using the standalone XWayland packaging, but hopefully they will -- for now it's just on their TODO list to explore.

- Ideally moving the Ubuntu desktop installer to working on Wayland rather than XWayland while still falling back to X11 when needed.

- More testing of Ubuntu Snaps and Java applications under Wayland/XWayland.

- Ensuring Mozilla/Gecko applications are using their native Wayland support rather than going through XWayland. There are also other Firefox-related fixes/confirmation needed.

- Potentially upgrading their PipeWire packaging to ensure it works well for the remote desktop scenarios.

-- Ensuring the experience is pleasant when booting a NVIDIA graphics card with the proprietary driver that it will fall-back to using the X.Org Server session. Similarly, making sure other more niche scenarios like Hyper-V display support still works with X.Org.

- Daniel van Vugt is still working on deep color support for GNOME.

- Potentially back-porting the GNOME 40 threaded input code from GNOME 40 to GNOME 3.38... With Ubuntu 21.04 sticking to the GNOME 3.38 series this cycle. This looks tentative and they might drop this work given that it would be a lot of packages to back-port and to test/maintain.

Their Wayland-by-default board can be seen at If all goes well for Ubuntu 21.04 in April we will be seeing Wayland by default for Ubuntu on its GNOME Shell desktop.
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