Fritzing is a very nice Open Source design tool for PCBs, electrical sketches, and schematics for designers and artists to move from a prototype to real hardware. Over the years, we’ve seen fantastic projects built with Fritzing. Fritzing has been the subject of books, lectures, and educational courses, and the impact of Fritzing has been huge. Open up a book on electronics from O’Reilly, and you’ll probably see a schematic or drawing created in Fritzing.
However, and there’s always a however, Fritzing is in trouble. The project is giving every appearance of having died. You can’t register on the site, you can’t update parts, the official site lacks HTTPS, the Twitter account has been inactive for 1,200 days, there have been no blog posts for a year, and the last commit to GitHub was on March 13th. There are problems, but there is hope: [Patrick Franken], one of the developers of Fritzing and the president of the PCB firm Aisler which runs the Fritzing Fab, recently gave a talk at FOSDEM concerning the future of Fritzing. (That’s a direct FTP download, so have fun).
Even though Fritzing is being used by hundreds of thousands of people, it struggles to find a sustainable development team. The latest release was two years ago. This isn’t because there’s no money to pay a developer; prototype manufacturers and IC manufacturers pay money to put their wares into Fritzing. But where does that money go? That’s the key to the whole thing: Those manufacturers pay Fritzing UG (a German LLC) to put their parts into Fritzing, but the developers are under operating under Friends of Fritzing e.V.. These are two completely separate legal entities, both somehow responsible for Fritzing, but only one gets the money. This is the beginning of a case study in Open Source economics, and we’re looking forward to [Patrick]’s complete write up on the situation.
Legal blunders aside, what is the future of Fritzing? A fork is a possibility, but most users would probably stick with ‘the original’. That’s not stopping anyone, though: Freetzing is a small community of devs working to keep Fritzing alive. A paid community manager could be a thing, and there is some money available for that. [Patrick]’s idea is to open up GitHub for discussion, taking the concerns from the community and finding a path forward for Fritzing.
Eagle, KiCad, and many other PCB design softwares are great for pros, but they each have their own idiosyncratic learning curves. Until you master them, they can be clunky and confusing. If you’re not yet serious about hardware, you might just need a simple solution done quick. Fritzing is the perfect tool for that, and the fact that Fritzing appears to have died is something that makes us all poorer.