Yesterday Ricardo Peres wrote an article about the state of NHibernate development, comparing it to Entity Framework and noticing that NHibernate's future doesn't look bright. It's pretty much in line with what I meant asking if NHibernate is already dead few months ago. But, as I'm still actively using NHibernate in my project and there are no prospects of changing that, it would be nice if that's not the case.
Although there's no clear roadmap available, it seems that NHibernate's community is planning a major release, bumping the version number to 4. The reason for that is pretty simple - the product is going to switch from .NET 3.5 to 4, mostly to retire Iesi.Collections dependency that provided set implementations that are now partially available in the BCL. This is a major breaking change and that justifies changing the major version number, for sure. Some obsoletes will be cleaned up in the same time.
Are there any new features planned for 4.0? Well, there are some, but I can't say the list is impressive. SQL Server 2012 will be supported better (sequences, limit feature), Ingres9 will be also supported out of the box and few other dialects will have some improvements. But, let's admit it, this is not a big deal for existing users. There are of couse several bugfixes and minor improvements done and planned for that version, i.e. in Linq provider (NH-3186, NH-2852, NH-3056, NH-2915, NH-3256), in mapping-by-code (NH-3280, NH-3313). There is also one possibly significant performance improvement with Linq queries done.
The draft version of release notes is available as a reference for all JIRA issues already resolved. Unfortunately, I can see no "flag ship" feature that might interest, majority of the list is rather maintenance of existing features or cleanup. Definitely not enough to encourage more interest in NHibernate, leaving the framework targeting breaking change the only thing that really justifies releasing this as 4.0 and not as 3.4.
And to make things clear, I'm not complaining that current contributors are lazy. I think Hazzik and Oskar Berggren are doing fantastic job keeping things up and running. The problem is that they are the only really active members of the community. And the size and complexity of the project is big enough to make gaining new contributors really hard, for sure. I've tried to fix one bug once - and I failed.
Anyway, my fingers are crossed in hope of new great features in NHibernate, but, looking objectively, I don't expect anything like that to happen.