Ginsu543 wrote:As far as I understand it, the reason the Mint team decided to make MATE was that the folks at Gnome had moved on from Gnome 2 to Gnome 3, and so Gnome 2 was no longer being maintained or developed further. So Mint forked Gnome 2 and made MATE, which allows the Mint devs to develop Gnome 2 as they see fit to keep the old Gnome 2 desktop experience going.
You are giving undue credit here. MATE is a fork of GNOME 2 started by Perberos. As that started to attract other developers and users, the the fork grew into a full-fledged project: http://mate-desktop.org/
. MATE is developed independently of Linux Mint, though Clem has a facilitating role on the MATE project team also. Linux Mint was the first distro to ship MATE and from the start Clem has seen the potential and importance of this project for Linux Mint users. The Linux Mint project and the MATE project regularly help each other.
Ginsu543 wrote:However, it is my opinion that, as far as customizability goes, MATE is, at least for now, more configurable than Cinnamon. So if you like customizing your desktop just so, with all the bells and whistles like transparent windows and workspaces on a rotating cube, MATE is the way to go.
What you mean to say is that you can add Compiz to MATE, which will allow you some desktop effects and such. Compiz however is not part of the MATE project and is currently only maintained for the Unity desktop environment--meaning as Unity moves from Gtk to Qt for its next release, Compiz is going to need a fork for MATE or go the way of the dodo I think.
The Cinnamon developers have taken some inspiration from Compiz, like Expo and Scale, and integrated those directly in Cinnamon without the need for an external compositing window manager like Compiz (and Compiz isn't compatible with Cinnamon). Out of the box, MATE is much less configurable than Cinnamon. Though you can add Compiz for desktop effects and such, I dare say for average users that have no history of twiddling with Compiz, Cinnamon is much easier to configure than MATE + Compiz. I'm not hung up on the rotating desktop cube and I don't think this is a compelling argument for average users.
Now if you would through KDE in the mix, that beats both