Such has been the strength of many Linux users' preference, in fact, that over the past year or so we've seen the emergence of multiple efforts to recreate the good, old GNOME 2 experience, including the MATE and Cinnamon desktops and even whole distributions such as Fuduntu and SolusOS.
Then, finally, to the joy of many, the GNOME project announced that it was bringing GNOME 2 back.
What users want
This situation is by no means restricted to the Linux world, of course--just look to Windows 8's Modern UI for a parallel example on the proprietary side.
It is, however, a vivid illustration of the disconnect that seems to have arisen recently between software makers and large numbers of their users.
Both Unity and GNOME 3 have their fans, to be sure--as, no doubt, must Modern UI--but the fact is that new and shiny isn't always what users want; sometimes, they just want what has worked for them for years.
On that critical criterion, I hereby crown GNOME 2 this year's king of the Linux desktop.