Please don't think I'm trying to single you out - there seems to be a contingent of semi-vocal people who appear to enjoy finding fault with Ubuntu/Shuttleworth.
However, implicit in your statement, "I guess they see that as their differentiator though, tbh - i.e., to them, it's a feature." is the contrary position "[...] to me, it's a fault." I'm not arguing the point - the endeavor may very well turn out to be folly. I don't use GNOME (I tried, I really did) so it really has little impact on me, as, I suspect, most of what Ubuntu does impacts its critics.
What is more interesting to me is the broader picture. We see this now as it relates to Ubuntu/GNOME, but it's really the same story of Google Wakelocks and the kernel, with somewhat different details. These sorts of issues need to be clearly resolved in a way amenable to everyone early (forks are okay as long as you discuss your approach first, or whatever), else much needless strife will ensue as I see no reason for issues like these to abate.