When developers talk about creating a software fork, what we mean is that we’re going to take a cut of the code of the original and then develop from that point on in a separate and usually no longer compatible branch.
Firefox is an example of a fork of the original Mozilla project that was so successful, it became the official browser of the project (which is why you still also have a Mozilla browser [or did, haven’t checked recently].)
Why do forks occur? Sometimes it’s personality clashes; other times it’s because the developers of the forked version have a difference vision of where the product can go. Many times the developers who create the fork are part of the original team, but not always, particularly with open source.
Can forks hurt a project? Not usually. WordPress itself is based on a fork from the weblogging tool, b2. Another weblogging tool, b2evolution, is a second fork from the original product, being developed and maintained in parallel.
If anything, a fork can help the original development team because those who are pushing for a certain direction can go off and do their thing, leaving the developers alone.
As I wrote previously, the reason I decided to finally fork is when I realized that merging my customizations into WordPress was going to become harder and harder over time, and I’m not willing to give them up. Still, I hope to keep the plug-in and theme architecture compatible so the two environments can share objects of each.
My forked version of WordPress is going to be called, Wordform. From linguistics, a “wordform” is the smallest unit of speech or writing that can stand on its own, and has a distinctive meaning. Now, if that doesn’t sound like weblogging, I don’t know what does. The name also has the added benefit of paying homage to it’s parent, WordPress.
I’m not going to set up a weblogging tool empire, and look for gold or glory. The code will be available for download, will be GPL, and I’ll be enhancing and fixing bugs. But the effort is going to be very casual.
I’m doing this project for fun, but it’s also an answer to all those people who have said to me in the past, “Well, if you don’t like (fill in the blank) why don’t you create your own weblogging tool.” So I am.