The first release (0.90alpha1) coming out of FOP’s redesign effort is exactly two years old today!
Between 2003-07-18 and 2005-11-22 (for more than two years), there was no release of Apache FOP. Many believed the project was dead. No wonder: the majority of the project team back then gradually went away for various reasons. There was no consensus about how the project should be continued. The “maintenance branch” constantly competed for attention with the necessary redesign effort which was started back in late 2001. The XSL standard lost its “new and shiny” status at some point which obviously didn’t help attracting a lot of creative minds with a lot of free time at their hands.
Today, XSL is a mature, if complex, technology which is widely adopted and treated as a commodity taken for granted. At least that’s often my impression. I mean, if we look at the size of the user base of Apache FOP compared to the number of the active committers, the difference is huge. Still, I’m very happy that we’ve been able to attract a sizeable group of new committers to Apache FOP once again over time.
From a personal perspective, it’s so good to see various companies and even some government institutions investing in FOP. Of course, the whole open source movement is still gaining momentum which helps here. Nowadays, I can even make my living by doing freelance work almost exclusively in the Apache XML Graphics ecosystem. My clients, in turn, get added value in various forms: new features, bugfixes, professional support with good reaction times, no vendor lock-in (independence from a single commercial provider), full access to the source code, sharing of development costs, no licensing costs etc. That’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.
I’m looking forward to the time ahead. There are still many things to do. One of the most important ones: Still not having jumped over the version 1.0 barrier harms the project: some companies don’t adopt 0.x software and others won’t invest in it. I hope we can finally, finally fix that in 2008, almost ten years after the XSL standard was started. And FOP was actually the first implementation of XSL-FO available.