A recent post by Phoronix predicted that Nepomuk would stop being supported and be obsolete by this year. The article claimed, “It appears there isn’t much of a future left to KDE’s Nepomuk framework that was developed at a cost of 17 million Euros… It’s going to be replaced going forward in the KDE land.”
That’s not true. First of all those 17 million Euros were not spent on KDE; those were invested in the Nepomuk project and Nepomuk KDE was just a small part of the entire project.
That work was continued by France based company Mandriva, once EU’s project was finished. So the claim that 17 millions were spent on KDE’s Nepomuk is incorrect. The second point is that this investment is not wasted as it enabled research and development of work which builts the foundation of the next version of Nepomuk.
Vishesh Handa, a KDE developer told us, “Additionally, the Nepomuk research project produced tons of academical papers, ontologies which are still being used in Tracker and Zeitgeist, and spawned many other independent projects such as Refinder.”
Another KDE developer Thomas Pfeiffer agrees and says,”….Nepomuk is still being used in academic contexts (I just heard a talk at a conference last year where people used it), for projects where it fits the bill much better than for KDE. Plus – and the article at least mentions that – Baloo still reuses some concepts from Nepomuk.”
But what’s Nepomuk?
Before we move ahead, for the benefit of new KDE users, let’s see what Nepomuk is in very simple and easy to understand language. In KDE-based systems most files can be found by searching for the file name or the directory (folder) the file is in. The file’s contents can also be searched, but this is more time consuming as it involves opening the file. The Nepomuk framework improves file searching by storing meta-data, or data about data, in a KDE database, to perform more comprehensive file searches. For example, you can label certain files with person ‘A’, and another group of files with person ‘B’. Nepomuk will enable you to quickly find those files written by A or those written by B.
What are the limitations of Nepomuk?
Nepomuk was originally a European Union research project to explore the act of searching for data. Vishesh Handa, a developer for the Nepomuk framework, has said that “we [Nepomuk developers] no longer think any more improvement is possible only by modifying our code”.
The main issue with Nepomuk at this stage is the “Resource Description Framework” (RDF), the data storage method of Nepomuk. RDF’s reliance on ontologies is also a problem when it comes to further optimization of the project. The team was looking at dropping RDF so that Nepomuk could be optimized for modern computing. They ‘rechristened’ the project under a new name called Baloo to further the development of what one may call Nepomuk 2.0.
The name change has it’s benefits as well as drawbacks, as Aaron Seigo, the lead Plasma developer, pointed out. While Nepomuk 2.0 might have nipped such controversies (as raised by Phoronix) in the bud, it may have suffered from the somewhat negative image Nepomuk has – especially how it used to be resource hungry (which is no more the case). A new name, with better performance was a better PR exercise, from my point of view.
“Another reason for changing the name is also that all of the APIs were tied very closely to RDF and the ontologies. Without RDF, the outer face of the project changes a LOT,” says Vishesh.
So in a nutshell there is no wastage of 17 million Euros or the death of Nepomuk. Yes, as far as future versions of KDE Framework is concerned Nepomuk 1.x won’t be ported to Qt5 and KF5, as it doesn’t make sense when 2.x edition is in plans. More conservative, older KDE systems will continue to use Nepomuk 1.x. The developers have made it clear that it will continued to be maintained for a while, however all new development will be focused on Nepomuk 2.x or what it’s called Baloo.
The core point is Nepomuk or Baloo are not important, what’s important is the ‘core’ searching or indexing feature of KDE Framework and that’s going to stay – whether it’s called Nepomuk or Baloo is irrelevant.
Swapnil Bhartiya contributed to this story.