Years ago, Mitch Kapor invested large sums of money into the OSAF – Open Source Applications Foundation – to come up with a new personal information manager called Chandler. Having burned through the $8 million they got via various means ($5M from Kapor originally), most (all?) of their developers were cut loose early in 2009 as I understand it, leaving the Chandler project – and associated projects – somewhat in limbo.

On a whim, I decided to have a look at the current state of play: turns out Chandler 1.0 is pretty much dead, and the work is now concentrating on re-architecting the software for Chandler 2.0. Having been in a similar position myself with the Bongo project – though I like to think the work we’ve done has been more evolutionary than revolutionary, except where absolutely necessary (e.g., the Hula store not being able to handle concurrency – d’oh!). The pages don’t seem to say why, although I seem to remember Chandler suffering from various pretty severe performance issues (i.e., being unusable).

It also reminds me somewhat of the situation with Mozilla Messaging and Thunderbird 3. MozMess has had a few millions injected into it, and now their developers are on a spree of embedding “search”, databases, bizarre active folder systems, and “conversation view” into Thunderbird – literally every release in version 3 I’ve been using (and I use it as my main client) has been a step backwards for me.

Clearly the injection of substantial money isn’t any particular driver of success; indeed, on the other hand, it seems to have a negative correlation on those (extremely limited) data points. However, without resources to have people develop, it’s difficult to see how to build up enough momentum to make this stuff happen. It is something of a conundrum.