KDE was the first of the two desktops to be created. *Most people were happy, but some did not like, what was then proprietary, its dependencies on Qt, so GNOME was started.
GNOME was meant to be completely free, and so started everything from scratch, using C, which is considered by many a poor language to create a GUI in.
GNOME became quite popular with the corporates since it had no ties to a competing company and, in fact, a company named Ximian was thusly born, of which, one of the founders was the founder of GNOME, Miguel de Izaca. *Another company, Eazel, also came along to compete with Ximian, and so thus started a fierce, but subtle battle between the two GNOME companies, and yet all the KDE/Qt based companies cooperated more often than competed.
In fact, Trolltech eventually licensed the Unix version of Qt under the GPL, and so thus KDE as a whole became recognized and embraced by the FSF/GNU (even though RMS thought the KDE/Qt people owed them an apology for having Qt being formerly proprietary.)
Increasingly, those corporates behind GNOME began to have an increasing influence in the development of GNOME and the development of GNOME became more closed than KDE's development. *Even the KDE League, whose members are largely corporate, has a mission statement stating that they will have no influence on the development of KDE, quite different from the mission statement of the GNOME Foundation.
Eazel did not survive, but Nautilus, their star software, coninued on and was eventually embraced by Ximian (how ironic.) *This was to prove how open source software can survive, even if the company did not. *It was, however, a huge blow to the idea that OSS made money. *And yet, The Kompany and Trolltech are still in business. *Then again, so is Ximian, but we all know they are struggling to stay in business.
Now, with Evolution complete, Ximian has stated that they cannot, any longer, produce 100% open source software. *It is true that neither The Kompany nor Trolltech do either, but they never committed themselves to that idea, whereas Ximian did, and now they are turning around and saying that they cannot.
Does it not seem strange to anyone else how the tables have turned for the two most popular Unix desktops?