We here at the Commit-Digest asked Trever Fischer, maintainer of Phonon-GStreamer and libphonon, about why the Xine backend has become officially unmaintained. To begin, Trever first outlined the most recent commit history, which is lacking:
"First, the last commit (excluding icons or Scripty translations) was back on January 2nd 2011. The commit was Harald Sitter (apachelogger) lowering the backend's priority to third place, behind VLC and GStreamer. Prior to that, there is another commit on November 28th 2010 by Harald which is the last time that any code was actually touched."
"It is pretty obvious that nobody in the KDE Multimedia community feels like stepping up to fix it. I myself tried to add video capture support to it, but the first step was getting v4l2 support into Xine. Xine now has v4l2 support, but I just never got around to sitting down and taking on the project of bringing phonon-backend-xine up to speed."
However, Trever quickly pointed out to us that this wasn't the core issue, but rather the Xine project itself.
"The last release of xine-lib was 2010-07-25, almost a year ago. There seems to be a bit of activity on the xine-devel mailing list I am subscribed to, but nothing noteworthy or anything indicating an upcoming release. There are numerous patches sent every month or so, but they often fall on deaf ears."
"In short, the Xine project is looking for new developers but nobody is answering the call with as much enthusiasm as is needed to breathe life back into the project."
"I myself haven't used/tested the Xine backend for a number of months, so I can't comment on it's quality. Browsing bugs.kde.org can give a good hint of its reliability compared to GStreamer or VLC."
At this time (June 13th, 2011), a search for Phonon + Xine brought up 39 open bugs, 16 in phonon-backend-gstreamer, and 6 in phonon-backend-vlc. The next question, of course, is what is to be done?
"In order for the backend to come up to speed and be risen out of the 'unmaintained' status, someone first needs to jump in and help out the Xine project. It doesn't make sense to us for someone to spend a lot of time on a Phonon backend that relies on software that isn't actively developed. Having said that, the KDE multimedia developer community is always looking for more hands. I'm currently the sole maintainer of the GStreamer backend, with Harald handling the VLC one. Together, we both maintain libphonon. Additionally, Phonon isn't exactly a fringe project. There are a lot of high-profile applications out there that use Phonon and depend on us."
"While this isn't a call for help, this is more of a call for awareness. Xine is a very good project; it would be a shame to see it wither on the vine due to lack of developer interest. Phonon-Xine will continue to be unmaintained until upstream garners more support. After that, improving the Xine backend would be a worthwhile endeavor."
It is clear that the KDE Multimedia team is small, and yet maintains an important and high profile part of our ecosystem. Intrigued to join in?
"Those interested in helping out KDE-MM, or learning more about how to help out Xine can contact us via IRC in #kde-multimedia or #phonon on Freenode. Asking around on the firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com mailing lists would work too."