I’m just going to preface this by admitting something: I love GNOME 3. It works (for me) and is, in my opinion at least, beautiful in its simplicity. When I show almost anyone my computer, the response is almost always positive – comments usually include ‘thats cool!’ or ‘I like that!’. Its interface is streamlined and non-intrusive, and for myself and many others, allows us to do what we want, without unnecessary intrusion by the GUI.
All that said, I understand peoples dislike, and it does take a bit of getting used to. If you want a traditional desktop in the vein of Windows 95, or are running older hardware, GNOME is probably not for you. When Unity came out in Ubuntu 11.04, I wasn’t a fan and on recommendation, I gave XFCE a try for the first time in many years. I liked XFCE – I still do, and I used it as my main desktop briefly, before discovering GNOME 3. I still run XFCE on an old backup desktop, and keep it installed on my laptop as well. The point is, I understand why some dislike GNOME Shell, though I suspect most complaints can be remedied with extensions.
Whether you want a panel, an application menu, or something else, there is likely an extension for it. Currently, the problem with extensions is their tendency to break between releases. At the Boston Summit, we discussed how to ensure users are given the tools to make GNOME work for them. Currently discussions are centered around compiling a list of ‘supported’ extensions which do not break with every new release. Work is ongoing, but if this is something that interests you, I encourage you to contact us and become involved in the discussion [1, 2].
As for the impending removal of fallback mode, and the way it was announced all I can say is I’m sorry. As in much of the FOSS world, communication skills are (unfortunately) not one of the GNOME community’s great strengths, particularly from a users’ perspective. The result of which is negative press when something is changed or removed, with the imminent removal of fallback mode being the latest manifestation thereof.
Fallback mode, as I understand it, was never meant to be a permanent part of GNOME 3. Its removal has been planned since its inception, though that does not appear to have been communicated to the larger community. One factor which has contributed to the confusion was the renaming of ‘fallback mode’ to ‘GNOME Classic’ in some distributions. Today it is neither used nor tested by a majority of GNOME developers, resulting in numerous bugs large and small. Whats more, since its original purpose (making gnome-shell usable without hardware acceleration) is largely null with LLVMpipe, it has outlived its usefulness, and the result is its imminent removal from GNOME 3.8.
I know that much, perhaps all of the above is upsetting to fallback mode users. If you are one of them, I encourage you to do two things. First, checkout extensions.gnome.org and determine if your issues with GNOME Shell can be fixed with extensions. If so, wonderful! If not, and GNOME 3 is simply not for you, by all means, look at the many other options available. Personally, I’m a fan of XFCE, but you may prefer LXDE, Enlightenment or something else entirely.