Clement Lefebvre, lead developer of the excellent Linux Mint distribution, has started working on a fork of the GNOME Shell called Cinnamon, which tries to offer a layout similar to GNOME 2. Unlike MATE, which is a fork of GNOME 2 that is compatible with GNOME 3, Cinnamon is only a fork of the GNOME Shell and not a fork of GNOME 3.
The emphasis is to be on making users feel at home and providing them with an easy to use and comfortable desktop experience. Why fork the GNOME Shell you may ask? According to Lefebvre, the reason is that even though GNOME Shell extensions are cool, you can only do a small amount of stuff with them and you can’t control interactions between extensions, their loading order and so on. As a GNOME Shell extension developer I fully agree with Lefebvre.
By the way, the Cinnamon code can be downloaded via Github from here. Not much there yet in the form of new code as the initial commit was only on December 10th 2011.
Interestingly, Lefebvre lives in Atlone, Co. Westmeath, Ireland.