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From: Stephen J. Turnbull <stephen <at> xemacs.org>
Subject: XEmacs at a crossroads
Newsgroups: gmane.emacs.xemacs.announce
Date: Tuesday 1st December 2015 02:25:43 UTC (over 3 years ago)
To all XEmacs supporters and users:

For the past decade, work on XEmacs has continued at a low level, and
mostly not visible in user-level features.  In the meantime, GNU Emacs
has implemented almost all XEmacs features, and recently RMS has given
the green light to some form of dynamic loading of machine code.  At
the same time, a number of features (jit-lock and lexical binding seem
important) that XEmacs lacks, and would require substantial effort to
port, have been implemented.

After some discussion on the XEmacs-Review mailing list, we decided to
open up a public discussion of the future of the XEmacs Project.
Please direct followups to the XEmacs Beta mailing list
([email protected]).  Reply-To is set for your convenience.

The present situation of the core developers who have responded is
that the developers who have been the primary contributors of code
currently have personal and professional commitments that prevent them
from devoting enough time to XEmacs to implement the large features
necessary for full compatibility with GNU Emacs for the foreseeable
future.  Those who have mostly contributed work on infrastructure
generally don't have the skills or time to convert to heavy code
contributors.  The bottom line is that we can not at present promise
full GNU Emacs compatibility in the foreseeable future.

If you would prefer to use an editor with the most recent features,
three core developers have ported personal configurations to GNU Emacs
with little difficulty, and say they expect no loss of functionality
in using GNU Emacs.  For current XEmacs users, converting to GNU Emacs
would offer access to a few popular packages not publicly available
for XEmacs.  I can mention nxhtml, org-mode[1] and magit[2] offhand.

I think all the core developers expect many users to stick with
XEmacs.  Steve Youngs writes: "Everyone who either uses, or hacks on,
XEmacs does so for a reason, and we do so by choice.  There are
probably as many reasons as there are XE users/devs, all I ask is that
you don't take away the choice."  I think all the core developers feel
the same way.  The reason this is coming up now is that several
developers who have contributed heavily in the past have acknowledged
that they *won't* be doing so for the foreseeable future.  It's only
fair that we let you, our users and supporters, know about that.

We all do value XEmacs, its history, the codebase, and you, our
community.  We are sad that XEmacs has fallen so far out of
competition with GNU Emacs, but it's time to admit that is the case,
and think about what we want to do now.  Several alternative paths
have been suggested:

    1.  Close up shop and release the resources to other projects.
    2.  Close up shop and move en masse to GNU Emacs development.
    3.  Fork current GNU Emacs, and gradually recreate an XEmacs-
        flavored GNU-Emacs-compatible language and editor.
    4.  Maintain infrastructure as a "caretaker" project, for the
        benefit of continuing users, and in case somebody wants to
        pick up the ball.

There is no consensus on closing up or on what to do if we did, and
therefore options 1 and 2 are off the table.  (Individual developers
will (and should) do as they want, of course.)  Option 3 has its
attractions[3], but no commitment from developers with a history of
substantial contributions of code.  That leaves option 4, or maybe a
new "option 5" if somebody has a good suggestion.

For those who wish to continue using or developing XEmacs, we have
commitments from at least two of the infrastructure contributors to
provide minimal support for

    - mailing lists
    - tracker
    - website
    - source code repositories
    - package buildbot
    - binary packages

While binary package releases will continue to be provided in
"Pre-Releases", there are no plans yet for a full SUMO release.  It's
quite possible, but there are some resource details (space on the
distribution site) to work out.

We would like to hear your thoughts.  If you have private patches you
can contribute to XEmacs 21.5, please let us know about them.  They
can be integrated.  XEmacs 21.4 is very near end-of-life, but Vin
Shelton is still maintaining it.

We thank you for your support and contributions over the years!

With sincere regards from the XEmacs team,

XEmacs Beta Release Manager, for the XEmacs Reviewers

[1]  A couple of developers have private ports of org-mode, which may
be made available in the future.

[2]  magit uses lexical binding, and so is likely to be difficult to
port to XEmacs.

[3]  As well as the potential to upset a lot of people in the GNU
Emacs community.
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