I have been trying to find a suitable replacement for Gnome 2, slated to be off the repos in Ubuntu in 2013.
I came up with nothing.
I do see a glimmer of hope from a post made at http://askubuntu.com/questions/51470/is-gnome2-x-going-to-be-caompletely-obsolete-from-all-linux-distro
I have tried every desktop environment in the repositories, and some not in the repos, like AWN.
I must admit, if there were only Unity or Gnome 3 to choose from, I would choose Gnome 3.
XFCE is nice, and very "Gnome 2"-ish. But it has some quarks and ties to Gnome 2 that make it iffy for me. I hope XFCE survives long past Gnome 2, because it is better than Unity and Gnome 3 combined.
Having had no luck finding a KDE 4 minus all the glitz and extra junk, KDE 4 is out for me as well. (I miss simpler older KDE 3. KISS!)
To those of you who are going to comment that I could remove the junk, keep in mind that I am writing for the person who just turns it on and is new to linux, and it's desktop environments.
I hope that Gnome 3 will grow, because the direction that Unity is going is wrong.
A person on the Ubuntu forum pages said "How long will you stand still?"
I tell you that if i stand still while you walk backwards with Unity, I am at a better position.
In closing, this is of coarse my opinion, but I believe it also accurately portrays the strongly negative feelings for the currently offered Unity and Gnome 3, by a large percentage of the Ubuntu user base.