The reason why Kdenlive can’t die…it’s Open Source

Well known news site Phoronix yesterday published a story titled ‘KDE’s Kdenlive Video Editor Has Gone Dark‘. There were some valid and serious concerns around the ‘paused’ development of the project as the last email from the lead developer Jean-Baptiste Mardelle (JBM) was five months ago in July which was about merging the Kdenlive forums with KDE forums; there hasn’t been any new commit since July. Despite the social network age, there are no traces of JBM.

So does that mean Kdenlive is dead as many say? Yes, it would have been dead if it was a proprietary software like Microsoft Windows. Luckily it’s free software – governed by GNU GPL v2 – so anyone can take over the development.

Free software never dies
One of the greatest advantages of free software is that it’s not dependent on one person or a company – people come and go and software continues to live. KDE was created by Matthias Ettrich who has moved on but KDE (the community and technology) continue to live – that can’t be said for a non-free technologies. We have seen so many companies die.

Kdenlive is a very important tool for people like me who do a lot of film-editing and there is a dearth of free and open source video editing software which can match-up with the quality of Adobe Premiere, Sony Vegas Pro or Final Cut Pro. Kdenlive is already quite advanced (than Openshot) and user-friendly (than Cinelerra) so it won’t be hard for the project to replicate the success of Blender, VLC, Firefox, Chromium or other such open source tools which have left behind their non-free competitors. All Kdenlive needs is more resources and developers to make it a top-notch software.

Kdenlive already has a huge user-base and from among those users there are certainly many who are also great programmers and they can very easily move ahead and take over the development of Kdenlive.

Compare it with Winamp where even if there is a community which wants to keep it alive (and out of Microsoft’s hands) they can’t do anything as it’s closed source software.

No one has done that yet may be because they did not know there was a problem. In most cases when there is no communication and users don’t see any development they move to other more sustainable project. That’s what may be happening to Kdenlive as well.

Kdenlive has an advantage that many other projects don’t have – it’s part of the vibrant KDE community which is full of extremely talented and bright people. The flip-side is that the KDE community is extremely decentralized, unlike other free software community like Gnome or Drupal, which makes it a bit harder for the ‘KDE community’ to come together and push the development of Kdenlive.

There is no doubt that Kdenlive is an extremely important tool and its development should continue. So the question to the KDE community would be – how to do it?’

About Swapnil Bhartiya

A free software fund-a-mental-ist and Charles Bukowski fan, Swapnil also writes fiction and tries to find cracks in the paper armours of proprietary companies. Swapnil has been covering Linux and Free Software/Open Source since 2005.

45 thoughts on “The reason why Kdenlive can’t die…it’s Open Source

    1. Money isn’t always the key for open source, but for advanced software project, it is. Nobody with great skills have that much spare time to create the software.
      But I don’t mind to donate money for a great software like Kdenlive, because I use it and make money with it.
      When the software is good enough, there will be people to support it with cash.

  1. Very good points.

    lets not forget that JBM is not the creator of KDENLIVE, it was Jason Woods in 2002. He moved on and others took over: very open sourcelike.

    Also here is the important addendum worth a new post:

    [Kdenlive-devel] Breaking newsFrom: Vincent PINON – 2013-12-05 11:28
    Hello Kdenlive fans,

    I found JBM’s phone number and decided to call yesterday evening.
    Good surprise: I talked to him!
    Topmost important, he is now fine.

    Here is my understanding of the situation; he may detail himself later on…

    He indeed had a forced break this summer.
    After this period off, he was a bit out of motivation, one reason beeing
    the refactoring appearing too huge a task.
    We agree that Till’s redesign is very elegant and powerfull, but there
    are so many things to redo almost from scratch just to get the “old”
    The “abrupt” switch was not the good way, we should actually plan a
    smoother transition, and plan a task *sharing*.

    This point matters: it proved again that a project relying on a single
    developer is very fragile (I note that for years he got help for bugfix
    & fine tunings, but few new functionalities).

    My conclusion is that we should stop holding our breath. We wouldn’t
    interfere and he would actually appreciate if people take responsibilities.
    The plans I see:
    1) put master back in good shape, restoring v0.9.6+, and moving back
    refactoring effort into its branch.
    who: Jean-Noël, Laurent, Vincent (me)
    when: ~2 weeks
    2) apply to this master all the quality tools (coverity, cppcheck &
    all), and sort out the fixable bug report from mantis.
    who: Mikko, Vincent, Granjow?, EdRog?
    when: ~2 month
    3) communicate on website, terminate the forums move. What about pushing
    integration on KDE infra? (tracker, web…)
    who: volunteers for com (news, doc, tuto, forums)? +technical help from
    KDE fellows
    when: when new stuff available ;-)
    4) integrate new features: GPU powered monitor & effects, webvfx
    titler/synfig bridge, Qt5 port, whatever motivates you to code ;-)
    who: JBM? Granjow? Newcomers?
    when: 2014 to 2050 ;-)
    5) progressively integrate new design, for example moving first the
    effect stack, then the project manager, then the timeline (random
    sorting, I haven’t studied the topic). The mix during the transition
    might be ugly, but I think it is better to keep all the functionality
    all along the process?
    who: Till (payd for another “summer of code”)?, JBM? (Vincent?)
    when: 2014 summer to 2015

    (I put the names I noticed just as suggestion, of course everyone is free)

    If we manage to gather a small active team, it might be good to meet
    sometimes, by IRC, phone/video, and even aKademy?

    Don’t hesistate to comment, complete or destroy these plans!

    Wish you all the best,



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