After GNOME 2.x passed the torch to GNOME 3, a lot of people started to wonder what is the perfect graphical user interface for them. Many users moved to Xfce, since it offers kind of a similar user experience to the late GNOME 2.x. But for those still fond of the GNOME 2.x environment, there is a fork of GNOME 2 available, and it’s called MATE Desktop Environment.
The MATE Desktop Environment fork of GNOME2 was started by an Arch Linux user named perberos (you can read his forum announcement here). The project started by mostly maintaining GNOME 2 packages. Many developers joined the project later on, so MATE Desktop Environment caught on quite successfully, improving vastly in the years past. There are also plans afoot to move to GTK3, wayland etc.