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06 November 2008, 09:31

New Wayland X server looks to how a modern desktop works

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The new Wayland X server strips down what is considered obligatory in an X Server to reveal a lightweight display server. The Wayland project was started by Kristian Høgsberg and is still a very young project, revised daily and being rapidly developed. Wayland's design approach is to have a server which only supports the features used by a modern composite desktop environment.

In such a composite desktop environment, the rendering of windows is performed by the client application, rather than the traditional X way of the client application generating numerous API calls that get the X server to render an image. By dropping image rendering on the server, Wayland takes responsibility for buffer management, input handling and has hooks for a compositor. Wayland also uses the kernel for mode setting and hardware set-up, reducing the complexity even more. This focus means that, currently, the Wayland server and compositor is only 3,200 lines of C code, though device input support has only recently been added.

Wayland is a prototype at the moment and the developer doesn't see it replacing the current X server any time soon. He does suggest that Wayland could find a place alongside the current X server, managing the display for GDM login displays, or hosting a X sessions. Høgsberg also mentioned that he is looking at other display issues that cause flicker; syncing to the vertical blanking and throttling animations so they are not changed as the display redraws. Høgsberg said "The wayland tag line is – every frame is perfect, by which I mean that applications will be able to control the rendering enough that we'll never see tearing, lag, redrawing or flicker".

Wayland sources can be found in a repository at and a Google group has been started to discuss the project.


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