Open Source: the Final Frontier

Aside from an eWeek piece and a short mention by Dan Gillmor, the mainstream technology press has paid little attention to UserLand Software's decision to release the Frontier kernel as open source.

Outside of the UserLand community, I don't think that many people realize that Frontier's kernel represents the core functionality of two actively developed programs with thousands of Windows and Mac users. This isn't an example of moldy software being released into open source when it's no longer commercially viable.

I'm not familiar with an open source project that offers a comparable feature set as a unified whole: an integrated development environment, persistent object database, outliner, dynamic scripting language, Internet client and server, and Web services platform that supports TCP, HTTP, FTP, SMTP, POP3, XML, XML-RPC, SOAP, and RSS.

In Radio UserLand Kick Start, I focused on the two most important parts of the software -- the object database and UserTalk language -- because they're great for the rapid development of Internet software. Both are part of this planned open source release.

Even if the existing kernel code was never touched by a developer, amazing software could be built atop it. I hope some of the outliner junkies can pry the outliner out of the code and create a standalone program. I've been popping into Radio to use the outliner to create to-do lists, manage bookmarks, and draft magazine columns and other essays.

Two old-school Frontier developers, Jim Roepcke and Jeremy Bowers, are also jazzed by this move.


A previous example would be Zope and the web framework Plone (built on Zope).

Welcome to the club!

I too was going to mention Zope. Zope has everything mentioned in the article but the the outliner and all the good things that go along with useing python. Anyway, the more the merrier

As a long time Zope user, programmer and contractor, and recent but hesitant convert to Plone, I echo the comments above but note that the ZODB - Zope's object database, is anything but transparent. Poor documentation is partly at fault - although there is SO MUCH Zope documentation, it's hard to zero in on the thing you want to know NOW.

Some people might be waiting to see what precisely gets released and under what license first.

That's true, Bill, but a little love from the press would probably hasten Frontier's open source release. In the words of Veruca Salt, "Don't care how -- I want it now!"

Zope sounds cool. Does it have a desktop client that could add an outliner, or is it server-side only?

Thankfully, the "hoardes of unwashed Slashdotters" already have PHP, Zope, and other solutions (without the digs too). :-) Given the well-entrenched alternatives, I suspect a new open-source release appeals to a focused niche for which mainstream press coverage might not be appropriate anyway.

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