On his blog, Benjamin Otte has some observations and criticisms of the GNOME project. He outlines a number of problem areas including understaffing, a loss of market and mind-share, and a lack of clear goals. "In fact, these days GNOME describes itself as a “community that makes great software”, which is as nondescript as you can get for software development.
The biggest problem with having no goals is that you can’t measure yourself. Nobody can say if GNOME 3 is better or worse than GNOME 2. There is no recognized metric anywhere. This also leads to frustration in lots of places."