But I think you have a valid criticism and it is critical that we have that stability in order to have a good application story.
Yep, desktop is a tool, and that's how we look at it as well. The various desktop projects all have a role to play. We're all one big R&D project trying out different ways to serve people. Each is distinct and that's what makes it so interesting. XFCE is a very conservative project, KDE and GNOME each apply the desktop paradigm in different ways. What works and what doesn't ideally should be shared across the spectrum.
Regarding the animations. We try to make the animations as unobtrusive as possible, because the underlying philosophy is a "distraction free" desktop. So if you're distracted then we have failed in some way. But each animation has a particular purpose, they aren't there for grins. It's supposed to symbolize a transition of some sort. For instance, we've found that in GNOME 2, when you changed desktop a lot of neophytes thought that they lost all their windows because it just looked like they disappear so a transition animation showed that the desktop moved. Things like that. So we're doing the same thing.
That said, there are extensions available in extensions.gnome.org that will stop the animations. You can even not have the overview if you wanted. The extensions have unfettered access to all parts of the desktop (well note quite, but mostly it's all there) It's quite possible for instance to recreate Unity, Windows or something else if you had the time and patience.
Devs didn't say 'fuck you'. You essentially had people asking the project to revert without giving the new stuff a chance. Then they grew angry because the project didn't listen to them. Throw away 2 years of labor? That's asking a lot. Also understand that a lot of these people are laboring for free and trying to be creative and take a different tack. There has been discussions on slashdot bemoaning the lack of innovation in the desktop in order to attract people to the platform. The interface is different and is not a rip off of some other desktop and internally there are more things that can be changed programmatically than before. Also custom things were replaced with standard web technology.
It would be nice have some appreciation for the risk taking and honest effort to differentiate from the usual Mac/Windows UI paradigm and create something unique.