Blogging Technology Going Open Source

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2004-05-17 Print this article Print

The core technology for Manila and Radio UserLand, called Frontier, is set for an open-source release within the next few months, says the founder of UserLand Software.

The technology at the heart of one of the most popular Web-logging tools is about to go open source. On Monday, the founder of UserLand Software Inc. said an open-source release of the Frontier platform, which serves as the underlying engine and runtime for the Manila and Radio UserLand blog-publishing tools, would become available within the next few months. While the companys board of directors has agreed to contribute Frontier as open-source code, the licensing model has yet to be decided, Winer said.
Winer said he sought the open-source move as a way to ensure that the Frontier code lives on and as a way to help jumpstart new development on the platform. Frontier was first developed in 1988 and did not become a platform for blogging until 1996, when Winer launched a blog using it.
"I want to make sure it lives forever," Winer said, in an interview with "Its not the kind of thing that a company does a good job with. … What people pay for are products, services and support. It wasnt clear people would pay for it, and its not easy to fund development for it." The Frontier platform includes an integrated object database, scripting language, a script editor and debugger, a multi-threaded runtime and an integrated HTTP server. Winer broke the news of the open-source plans on his Scripting News blog. Scott Young, who replaced Winer as CEO of UserLand in December, said that the development of Frontier is complicated work for a small software company and that by moving it into the open-course community the company can focus on its commercial Manila and Radio UserLand products. UserLand, of Danville, Calif., currently offers a commercial license to the Frontier platform. "It allows us…to be tapping into the existing resource base of developers out there," Young said of the open-source plans. "One of reasons I like open source is that a whole lot of activity could take place outside the confines of the company that the company can support and leverage." UserLand also is undergoing a restructuring, which will split off the commercial products into one legal entity separate from the Frontier platform, Young said. An announcement with more details about the restructuring was expected late on Monday or on Tuesday. UserLand will retain a license to the Frontier technology, Young said. How big of an open-source Frontier community will develop isnt clear, Winer said, but the platform could be used to develop applications blogging tools. By announcing the open-source plans, he said he hopes to gain feedback about how to manage the process of releasing the code. "Users want a lot of choice, and I think thats what theyre getting," Winer said. "I dont expect the Frontier kernel to be limited to a platform for blogging." Check out eWEEK.coms Messaging & Collaboration Center at for more on IM and other collaboration technologies.

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Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.

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