I think there’s a deeper problem here, where the Gnome designers are trying to project a vision that, IMVHO, isn’t a good fit for a free and open source project like Gnome.
I understand why they’d love some top-down visual integrity. But that works better when you can use legal instruments like licensing, T&Cs, etc., to retain a necessary amount of control over what “vendors” do with your product and how they present it.
Gnome is free and open source. If people have your permission to fork, change and cannibalise your work, I’m not sure how you can hope to achieve that product-vendor model, where your principles and wishes are respected through the ecosystem. So we see an (IMO) less-than-ideal position where Gnome designers are putting pressure on a “vendor” using informal channels like critical blog posts and tweets.
FWIW, I’m not disputing the validity of what they’re trying to do; just the wisdom of trying to do it with a free and open source platform. IMO, embracing a vive la différence philosophy is necessary if you’re going to work under a licence where you cede control. It’s like releasing an animal into the wild and then trying to keep it as a pet. There’s nothing wrong with releasing an animal into the wild, and there’s nothing wrong with having a pet. But I question the wisdom of trying to do both with the same animal.
My opinion, as above, is that your licence should be an honest statement of what you’re happy for people to do. If someone takes a FOSS component off the shelf, they shouldn’t have to worry this much about upstream’s design principles, or their hopes for how the ecosystem will evolve. Surely, half the appeal of FOSS is the fact that you can diverge from upstream to follow your own vision?
I guess, speaking purely for myself, the recent developments here feel like a bizarre juxtaposition of proprietary-style wishes with free and open source licensing. It’s like a basket of apples with a sign saying, “Help yourself to these apples! Do what you want with them! Sell them if you like!” - and someone’s stood next to the basket, pressuring people about what they should or shouldn’t do with the apples.
The Gnome website says that Gnome is Free Software and links to the definition at GNU, whose “essential freedoms” include the right to "change [the software] as you wish" and “distribute copies of your modified versions to others.”
This includes the right to “use your changed version in place of the original” and states, furthermore, that “whether a change constitutes an improvement is a subjective matter. If your right to modify a program is limited, in substance, to changes that someone else considers an improvement, that program is not free.”
I don’t know how there can be this much contrast between the licence for a project and the hopes of its contributors. When it comes to your work, if someone has these freedoms, they aren’t really in a formal product/vendor relationship with you. But the GNOME designers have created an atmosphere and narrative where it’s become, at the very least, politically awkward for Ubuntu to try to replace the upstream icons, because they’ve made it clear that they disapprove.
Again, as previous, all completely IMO.