A few days ago I contacted Wikia about the Oasis skin. This morning I received my response.
On 2010-11-05 22:48:36, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote: > Why has the Oasis skin been made mandatory? > Will other skins will eventually be available again? > What was wrong with the Monaco skin? > > Thank you!
Reply: 1) The choice to do so was to simplify the number of current skins and systems we would have to test each new feature under. We, in the past, kept the previous generation skin around side by side, but every new thing we made, or everything we changed, meant twice as much testing and development time.
2) No. Once all wikis are converted over, we will be doing a cleanup of the actual skin files on the server, to prevent them from being used (somehow) or to become the entry point of security issues (as we would not be using them, we wouldnt be testing on them, and thus, the possibility of them being an entry vector for an attack goes up over time)
3) Many many things were. As "nice" as monaco was, that was after 2+ constant years of tacking on new feature after new feature after hack after change, to bring it to what we wanted. This created a not very nice environment that was layers of hacks and changes that was starting to crush under its own weight. It make it hard to write new features and systems. Yes, some small part was related to advertisements, but in a good ways. The change to add the "right rail" gave us an isolated part of the page to put items, that was not in the content area. Yes, ads go in here, but that means they are no longer "in the content area", Other modules, like the "pages I'm following" were also designed months before the new look was live, on the idea that this rail would exist someday, and it would also go into that slot. We have many ideas planned for that rail, things that were not possible before without it.
You will start to notice more page specific items appearing (user related data when on user pages, blog listing on blog pages, perhaps even blog comment stats on blog pages. Items that are specific based on who you are logged in as are also planned (anonymous readers could get things that are relevent to them, where as logged in users tend to want data about their own actions. Even modules that are specific shown if you are an admin user have been discussed.)
There are many systems that we wanted to add to monaco, that, if added, the work required, would have had it end up much like the new skin anyways, but it would still be layers of old code to fight against, so we decided to take this time to start from scratch, and build a skin system that is specific to Wikia's needs, and not "every mediawiki install ever"
There were also just as many backend changes, to both improve and fix many long standing problems, like image caching and purging to search results that dont suck. These all required some major changes to the way the "current skin" asked for images and CSS and JS. It would have been much more work and costs to run servers that served the new method to the new skin users, and still the old broken stuff to the monaco and older users. By having 1 current skin, we can cache and reuse many images and code through out the whole skin, thus saving server space, bandwidth, and bugs.
And partly to #2. There is also much discussion happening on the future of monobook at Wikia as well. Starting in MediaWiki 1.16 that was released in 2010, a new skin, called "Vector" (see wikipedia.org) was made the "default" skin that shipped with MediaWiki. All Wikimedia Foundation sites were moved to this some time late in 2009 I think. Monobook was discontinued there for the same reasons we discontinued Monaco. Its just too damn old. At some point in a "thing"'s life, you have to stop fixing it, and buy a new one. Be it a car, or a site skin system.
I hope these answered your questions enough. I'm glad you can find the new skin at-least tolerable. Just remember that its all going to be in flux for a very long time, based on the feedback from the beta period, and the usage data we are actively collecting from every user of the skin. Hopefully once the "flamewar" on the forums and elsewhere had died down, we can get useful feedback and suggestions on how to improve the site, and not just "we hate it, give us monaco back" over and over