News and estimations about Moodle HQ employees vary, but the number is often capped at fifty (50), and only a fraction of them are software engineers. Moodle is not a large company, and a part of its development depends on volunteer contributions.
This is often the case for open source technologies, especially when the development is not critical or broadly requested. All things equal, Moodle HQ is better off working on security and performance rather than ‘cool things.‘
Compared with similar projects, the rate of development we see in Moodle is actually quite similar. WordPress has minor releases about every two (2) months and major ones every six (6), just like Moodle. Mozilla releases a new version of Firefox every two months, but not all of them come with meaningful new features.
Ever since Moodle 2.6, the development team has decided to change from a by-feature to a by-schedule release calendar, in part to make the upgrade workflow easier for site administrators. This does mean some features might get unnecessarily delayed, but never for more than two months.
In any case, Moodle’s development process is not perfect. Past interventions from the leadership have signaled a series of changes in the way features and development are conceived and coordinated in the future. Specifically, a user-first shift might help prioritize features that would improve user-experience (hopefully with no increased security risks).
As a decade and a half-old technology, there is also a legacy of reality in Moodle. Updating old and interwoven code into modern guidelines and web services can be as time-consuming as building new functionality. If you are keen on making Moodle’s slow rate of development your cause, you might be in luck, as open-source technologies are particularly fertile ground for personal activism. Here are the ways you can get Moodle to a development pace that pleases you:
- Get the early or ‘plus‘ versions of Moodle, which are built weekly and are still recommended for real users, or as they are called, ready for ‘production environments.’
- Get even earlier ‘dev‘ or ‘beta‘ version of Moodle from the open repository. These are not generally recommended for production environments but guarantee you the cutting edge.
- Consider building new features yourself. For many Moodle developers, the best Moodle version is the one they are working on. It’s almost the norm that developers spend some time with their fixes or plugins before they release them to the community.
Let us know what you think.