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Some of you have been wondering where Lifetype is headed, when the next version will be released or what we've got in the pipeline... so here you go. 

Lifetype 1.2.x 

The 1.2.x branch of Lifetype will go on as expected, there will be as many maintenance releases as needed as long as there are bugs to fix. If there is any interesting minor feature that can be implemented, it will be considered but otherwise there will be no major changes. 

Lifetype 2.0

The next major release will be Lifetype 2.0. We had some plans to develop a small 1.3 release and then tackle most of the changes below in 2.0, but those plans have been scrapped and instead we'll go for a bigger 2.0 release. The major version bump is justified by two important changes that will happen with Lifetype 2.0:

  • UTF-8
  • PHP 5

First of all, we're moving Lifetype to work internally in UTF-8.While some of the current translations are already using UTF-8 and the core is able to work fine with it, we're going to have a close look at it and make sure that it all works as expected. Also most of the western languages (English, French, Spanish, etc) are still using ISO-8859-1 as the character encoding and while this means that the ugprade process from the previous version will be a bit more challenging than usual, it also means one single encoding will be able to support all current and future translations.

With full support for PHP 5, Lifetype is finally entering the 21st century as far as programming languages are concerned. While old code will not be rewritten unless strictly necessary, developers are now free to utilize any of the new language features provided by PHP 5. The minimum required version for which we are developing is PHP 5.1, as that is considered by the development team the first truly usable version of PHP 5.

The two features outlined above have little or no effect on end users, so this is what we have planned for them in Lifetype 2.0:

  • Integrated friends list and private messaging.
  • Integration with Google Maps.
  • Ajaxification and clean-up of the user interface.

The integrated friends list will allow users to keep a list of their "friends" within a Lifetype community, much like LiveJournal does. Additionally, users will be able to exchange private messages with each other, and we're hoping that these features will increase the interactions between users and help grow the feeling of community.

Also, thanks to the integration with Google Maps users will be able to tag their posts, blogs and files with geographical information (known as geotagging) All you need to do is get a Google Maps API key and Lifetype will take care of the rest.

Last but not least, we're also working on creating a more dynamic and friendly user interface. For the first part we're using Javascript and the Ajax approach, and we've already got some things working, like dynamic paging of data without reloading the page, dynamic validation of forms, etc. For the second part (i.e. a more friendly interface) we're trying to reduce the number of options, buttons, links and gadgets in general used in the user interface to make it feel less daunting and more appealing to new users. Sometimes in our quest to provide the biggest amount of features we forget about usability and user friendliness and no we're trying to make up for that.

Now about the estimated release date... We usually don't commit to any release date(s) and we're not going to do it this time either. Our estimations are that Lifetype 2.0 should be in a usable state at some point in late 2007 and ready for mass consumption in early 2008. [Update 03/2008: this date has not been accurate for quite a while, but I hadn't realized we had published a date.  2.0 is currently in alpha stage, and I don't think anyone is using it for their own blog.  I think historically the final release has been about 6 months after the developers start using it for their own blog] We've made good progress lately in the development area and things are already looking pretty good, but there's still a lot to do and we're in no hurry anyway: Lifetype 1.2.x is now rock solid, offers a pretty good amount of functionality and we're committed to provide as many maintenance releases of the 1.2.x branch as needed.

In the meantime if you'd like to help us develop Lifetype 2.0, we've created a Lifetype 2.0 TODO list in the wiki including most of the open items so far. Have a look at it and if you think you can help us, let us know. Otherwise in case you're just interested to see how things are coming along, the code in trunk in our Subversion repository is perfectly usable at the moment and things like the friends list, the Google Maps integration and about 50% of the interface has already been ajaxified.

After Lifetype 2.0

It's still early to say what will happen after Lifetype 2.0 and to provide a list of potential features would be foolish. We have a bunch of things in our roadmap that would be good to have but that have not been assigned to any release, so some or all of those could potentially end up being implemented in Lifetype 2.1.

We'd also like to hear feedback from our users because after all we're doing this for you guys, so please make sure that you use any of the suitable channels to send us your feedback! 

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