Selenium currently has the lion-share of the open-source browser driving frameworks/systems. But if it is improve or even maintain that lead I think one thing that needs to happen is the formalization of both the project and the corporate entities that benefit from it.
I see a path to potential success looking a bit like the above venn diagram.
On the left is company A who uses Selenium as a core technology for their products and/or services. But they have also developed extension to the core product. Those extensions are their value-add; it is what separates that company from others and belongs to them. That I think should not be contributed back to the main project. Now, if they fix bugs in the server or refactor or otherwise improve the core then that should be contributed.
Same thing for the company B on the right who just happens to have two novel improvements that they keep as part of their corporate IP.
Area Se (C — you have no idea how funny I think that is) is the missing links right now. Companies A and B (and likely D – J) already exist. Area Se is something akin to The Selenium Foundation which would be a not-for-profit which holds the copyrights and IP for the main project. Their role would be to act as the central marketing position for member companies, manage the mailing lists, web site, etc. They would also, ultimately, be responsible for the project roadmap and managing releases. I think this organization already exists, but I’m not sure it really has taken the bit and started running.
This wouldn’t have to be a big organization; likely just a single person (Managing Director) initially, voted into a 2-year term by board members (initially I see such a board being made of representatives from Thoughtworks, Google, Sauce Labs, Browsermob and the community at large) and a big enough budget salary-wise to let someone dedicate 100% of their time on the task.
I had thought Watir had pulled off this bit of re-organization with WatirCraft, but with its shuttering recently it looks like that momentum was lost.
Neither of A or B are precluded from offering their smaller bubbles back in into the the core projects (IDE, RC, Grid) at some point in the future if they desired. But at the same time, the Foundation wouldn’t be obligated to accept them if they were too specific to a certain problem.
Of course, the venn diagram starts to break down pretty fast once you get more than two participants, but I think the model in-general resembles something close enough to the Debian / Ubuntu one that it still will scale out. The devil is of course in the details and the political will must exist among the existing vendors in order to make it happen.