Distributions have been growing for years. As Linux started to get more popular, the amount of packages in distributions also increased. Most recent distributions like Fedora and Mandrake have 4 CDs or are distributed on DVD. Maintainers saw their workload increase drastically. Yesterday, an article on Slashdot came up and indicated that Slackware could drop support for Gnome. This was in no way official, but it definetly marks a major change in the way Linux will be distributed.
A few new distributions saw the light recently, such as Ubunto Linux. The distribution is based on Debian but it filters the packages that are accessible and also gives it a fresh wind. From what I could see, Gnome 2.8 is the only available desktop environment. Yoper divided the distributions based on the purpose they will serve. Instead of making everything available, things are filtered for higher quality. Sun’s Java Desktop System also had a reduced amount of packages. Novell’s SuSe is pushing for Ximian (I might be wrong on that one) and Evolution as a solution.
I think this is all for the best. I have been asked recently what was the difference between all distributions. I have to admit that my best answer was
the way they are distributed, because they are all pretty much the same. One you have a distribution selected, you still need to select the packages you want. The new generation simple cuts off one of those choices. This is probably going to help more migration to Linux by making it easyer for new user but also by assuring a higher quality.
This changes nothing to the fact that Debian and Gentoo will remain present with their overwhelming amount of packages for those who like their Freedom. As long as a single desktop environment does not win the war, have a monopoly and impose their standards, I will be happy.