When I first started with GNU/Linux it was GNOME 2.30 that I got introduced to, it was the time when having 512MB of ram was considered average or below average, people were moving to 1GB or more, 2GB was like you had lot of money or were a gamer.

I also discovered KDE 3.1x which was beautiful, I was charmed by it and made a decision that when I install another gigabyte of ram I will move to KDE.

By the time I got into a job and purchased 2GB of ram, KDE 4.x was out and it was heavy. Though my AMD laptop could run it, it was getting hot and slow.

I then got the recommendation to move to XFCE. Which after much research I started using it. I was still a newbie learning my way around DEs and afraid of command line. As I got used to XFCE, command line, I was still not satisfied with the response of this new DE. I wanted something more faster yet similar to the DE that I was used to or the stacking windows paradigm ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stacking_window_manager ) and must be looking like windows styled with a bar which comes with applications menu, system notification, etc. All the things which a typical PC user might be accustomed to. You know GNU/Linux is for everyone not just me. It needs to be usable by non technical people too!

That is when my journey started with me having rigid opinion on having a bar and after discovering the older Unix style tiling managers.

Anyways, I saw Puppy Linux using something similar to Win 98, I went after it and found two Window Mangers(WM) which look like Desktop Environments! And with some effort you can make them function exactly like DEs.

They were IceWM and JWM, both support one mode – Stacking.

I disliked the way they looked, but had to trade off looks for efficiency, speed, resource usage. But still the effort, time it took to make them work was not desirable, rather than editing some config files I wanted something which I can just point, click and configure.

This journey then led me to enlightenment, which in release 17 offered both stacking and tiling modes, speed, low resource utilization, system modules, eye candy, point, click and configure menus!

Wow! It had everything, it is not just a WM but a hybrid, a mix of a DE + WM.

I saw a trend in the way DEs have evolved, today you have GNOME 3.x and KDE 5.x XFCE 4.x and LXDE will be merged with Razor-qt to become LXQT.

I noticed that all of them were coming out with nice features at the cost of resources. This made me wonder will this ever end? No. It continues, so users like me who prefer not to upgrade machines for whatever reasons can stick to WMs, and in them you have choicet to choose from, they remain lean yet functional and some of them are better than the DEs in many ways. Enlightenment looked like it and is still is my choice.
PS- In case you are longing for the old KDE 3.x like I still do, it is now TDE -> https://www.trinitydesktop.org/ I hope the developer ports it to FreeBSD.