in UNIX

XFree86 “Crisis”

So there’s this big flap about whether or not XFree86 should be forked. Doesn’t it seem like we go through this every few months with every other large open source project? I mean some operating systems are a direct result of forking. And then you have Linux with its -dj, -ac, -my_dog_spot branches, and myriads of different releases — 2.0.x, 2.2.x, 2.4.x, 2.5.x. It’s crazy. Not that the Linux development model (a/k/a complete and utter chaos) should be emulated by anyone.

Mike Harris has an interesting diary entry on why people are so fed up with XFree86, but my point, as I’ve made it above, is that the problems the XFree86 project have are endemic to any large open source project. After a while, any “core” development team becomes so insular it becomes a little “old boys’ club”, and unless there are folks willing to help reverse that trend, you end up with a lot of people outside core being very pissed off, and threatening to fork the code, etc. By and large I think code forks are a Bad Thing except in cases where the project is trying to do two different technical things at the same time. But forking code due to the inability of people to cooperate, and due to the core team becoming so insular — that’s not beneficial to anyone.