What Happened to Project Looking Glass?

Project Looking Glass is a cross-platform (compatible with many Unix-based operating systems) three-dimensional desktop environment based on Java technology made by Sun Microsystems. The technology started with the vision of recreating the way the desktop environment works, taking it from the plain 2D and 2.5D we are used to to something rather different.

The project originally went beyond a simple conception into a full-fledged stable desktop environment. Its last stable release (1.0.1), however, was in 2007. Its development seems to have virtually stopped, though. It’s plainly obvious, especially since its website hasn’t been updated in two years or so and we hardly hear anything about it. So what ever happened to Project Looking Glass? Why did the project stagnate?

After giving it some thought and research, here are a few reasons I came up with:

  • There is a lack of user base. Sure, it’s interesting, but not many people felt the compulsion to switch from their two-dimensional desktop environment, one to which they had gotten completely accustomed, to something completely new. Besides, how many common users besides “techies” have heard of Looking Glass at all?
  • There is a lack of interest. This builds up on the previous point. It seems Sun simply got tired of the project and promoting it. Besides, Sun has already accepted GNOME as the de facto standard desktop environment for its OS releases, such as OpenSolaris.
  • It’s another platform. Modern developers, despite being relatively welcoming to new technologies, seem to have already found their niche and divided themselves into what they find suitable. Further more, Looking Glass and its APIs, as far as it seems, has a lot unique features that are not easily or readily deployable to other platforms, so it’s not a WORA (write-once-run-anywhere) situation.

Given these, and other reasons, such as the easier availability of other 3D desktop environments, such as Compiz, it’s relatively easy to see why Looking Glass died out. The project’s latency is still a loss for the world of development.


One Response to What Happened to Project Looking Glass?

  1. Observer says:

    I think you pretty much summed it up. I tested Looking Glass for awhile, but dropped it as it was just another fancy gimmick to me. Compiz may have stole the glitz from it, but as an Ubuntu, I don’t really treat myself to all the spinning desktop all the time. It is really just novelty and fun for the first few mins/hours.

    A few feature of compiz that I use quite regularly:

    1. Win-key zoom – I use it when the default text on web sites are just too small and firefox zooming is lagging too much. Quick zoom in for a read.

    2. Window Shrink – I use it to park apps that I want to keep track off but do not want to have it block what I am doing now. Eg, Update Manager, download dialog or a video that I want to just keep it at the corner with topmost on.

    3. … I cannot think of a third one that I use actively. But I was using the shift-switcher for awhile; gives the pc some blink! 😀

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