In May 2007 Red Hat hired Panu Matilainen to take over the project. He started the 4.4.2.x series by collecting patches and bug fixes that where still lurking in bugzilla and other distributions and fixing bugs himself.
After one year it became clear that just one person could continue to do bug fixes forever. So there were two more people added to the project: Jindrich Novy and myself. This allowed us to do real development and new releases. Since then the project is not "halfway into" but back out of maintenance mode.
But as Jonathan correctly noticed the releases do neither focus on new features nor on transforming RPM into something else. Instead lots of work has been put in solving scalability issues and improving the code base. We believe that RPM - beside some ugly and awkward implementation details - does the right thing and the basic design - created one and a half decades ago - is still valid. We also believe that features added now should be prepared to survive a similar time span - especially when considering the long life time of today's enterprise distributions.
The other reason why the development of RPM does not look that spectacular is that there are several ten thousands of packages out there that need to continue to work - both building and installing. So every change has to be considered thoroughly. Packaging is a complicated topic and the implications are not always easy to foresee. Even simple looking bug fixes have hit packages relying on the broken behavior[*].
This makes the RPM project a not very contributor friendly environment. While we try to be more approachable the technical necessities make the RPM project a bad place for people seeking self-fulfilment. As a result the development is - and has always been - a "Red Hat show" with some individual contributions - most of them from other RPM based distributions.
So some people may consider RPM "boring". We developers consider it difficult, challenging, scary, complicated and exciting. But we also consider it as the stable foundation of our and many other distributions and a project that is going to be around for at least another decade and a half.
[*] Special thanks to the Fedora Project that does the beta testing for us and keeps most of these incidents away from everyone else.
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