Blogging Technology Going Open Source

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.

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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."


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