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The FOSS Project Blues

Here's frustration incarnate for you: an open source program that fills a vital niche in your computing experience, but hasn't been updated in what feels like forever and ... could really use an update.

Here's frustration incarnate for you: an open source program that fills a vital niche in your computing experience, but hasn't been updated in what feels like forever and ... could really use an update.

I speak of KompoZer, an open source Web design app, a fork of a previous project (Nvu) that for a time also looked like it could shape up as a decent substitute for DreamWeaver, Frontpage / Expression Web, and so on. I can use it, but just barely. It's been stuck at the 0.7.10 revision level for quite some time now, and there's a lot about it that needs to be gussied up.

I need to emphasize that the project is not dead -- it's just that it's being worked on by only one person right now, who only has a certain amount of spare time to devote to it, and he hasn't reached a milestone that would allow for a stable public release. (Another project in the same vein named BlueGriffon has just barely started, and isn't much more than a placeholder so far.)

It's frustrating. It's also tempting to write this whole thing off as "a failure of the open source development model" or something along those lines, but I'm not going to fall into that trap. This is not an indictment of the development process, or the open source development model in the abstract. That's a gross oversimplification, and I've seen this sort of thing waved around in the past as a club to beat open source with.

The problem here is the way this particular project has its development supported. With one guy in charge, it's bound to be slow. You could cite the fact that these things happen as a weakness of open source projects -- but I could come right back at you with any number of closed-source, proprietary projects that have stagnated and died off, especially ones that people spent good money on and found themselves out in the cold with after the companies in question went bust or moved on or vanished.

I try not to let pragmatism rule my worldview, but many other people don't have the luxury of being anything but pragmatic about their computing. I can struggle along with KompoZer; I can scratch around and try to find another FOSS program of the same ilk (although I've so far come up empty-handed), or I can drop the money for DreamWeaver or Expression Web. As someone else once said, you pays your money and you takes your frame of reference.


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