I notice there have been a couple of questions now about why project this and that failed (Beagle, Hotwire). I understand historical questions, but in general I don't see these being as much of history... nore are they likely to get real answers. Truth is the community, or developers lost interest or moved on. Unless we asked an actual project dev we might not actually get a real answer. I don't find that they are particularly useful questions. And to that end I think they should be "offtopic", but I'd like to know what others think?
I share your hesitation, I did hesitate about closing both these questions. I would consider “What killed XFree86” to be a valid historical question, because it was a key component of many unix systems as opposed to an application. Beagle was an application, but it was one of the major players in its domain. Hotwire was virtually unknown.
In the case of Hotwire, which seems to have had only two developers, at least one of which has an easy-to-find email address, the best way to get an answer is surely to email the developers. In the case of Beagle, the answer turned out to be on a project mailing list. However, on reflection, I'm not sure that this consideration is relevant: Stack Exchange aims to be a repository for all kinds of information, so having the answer here is part of this site's purpose.
There's a Free open source software projects site proposal that might accept these questions.
I don't like this question much, I think mainly because the “why” aspect can probably only be answered authoritatively by two people. On the other hand I would have no problem with “What is the status of hotwire-shell, is the original project dead, is anyone maintaining it or a fork?” — but it's not such a different question.
TL,DR: I dunno.
I started to write the comment "I hope this doesn't become a trend -- projects just die out sometimes" on the second answer, but decided to hold off unless it happened a third time. I'm on the fence too, since they are legitimate questions, but almost impossible to answer in most situations. The questions didn't get any close votes, so I guess the rest of the community is ok with them. As long as somebody doesn't post "Why did X die out?" for every project X they've ever followed I guess it'll be ok
A link to a declaration of death by a lead developer or a close watcher (EG: a blog post that explains the cause) is enough of an Answer.
The death of projects are caused by other factors other than just loss of interest. XFree86 died because of change of license for example.
Other reasons why projects die:
- lack of adoption (maybe due to bad marketing)
- lack of much money (EG: if they happened to be driven by paid developers)
- being superceded by better alternatives