Ma.gnolia Looks to Open Source for the Future

by Ostatic Staff - Aug. 22, 2008

Social bookmark sharing site Ma.gnolia has long been shadowed by the more popular, even with all the issues that the latter site has had with pushing out timely updates. But at today's Gnomedex conference, the Ma.gnolia team announced a new effort that they hope will help them leap ahead: they plan to rewrite, federate, and open source their code. It's a bold step, but will it work out in the end?

The plan is nothing if not audacious. First, they intend a complete rewrite (referred to as M2) rather than building on the current code. With the current codebase being a few years old, and both the tools and the team having changed since then, this is a reasonable idea - but the specter of failed projects like the final NetScape Navigator rewrite has to lurk in any developer's mind when they hear about throwing out the existing code.

Second, they're going to move from being a centralized service to being a federated one. You'll still be able to use a free account on the main Ma.gnolia server, but you'll also be able to download the code, spin up your own instance, and tie your user's bookmarking habits into the global Ma.gnolia data cloud. The project's charter (PDF) has further details on their plans in this area.

Finally, the bulk of the code will be open source. Details on this are as-yet sketchy; we know they're planning to host it at github, and that some parts (such as the Facebook application) will be kept closed. Even such fundamentals as the choice of license are not yet clear.

But given the Ma.gnolia team's strong history of supporting open standards (from OpenID and OAuth to microformats), I'm betting we'll see a very friendly license here. On a technical side, it seems likely that M2 will be a success, and that it will keep its hardcore of web-tech-savvy users. The open question is whether this can translate into the sort of growth they'd need to seriously challenge the competition.To keep an eye on their progress, visit the M2 site or subscribe to the relevant Google Group.