In the November issue of the GeoConnexion magazine, (“Geo: International”), an article I wrote was published in OSGeo’s Monthly Column, “Open Sources”. The article talks a bit about the history of OpenLayers, and how it came to be developed the way it did:
OpenLayers was the first mapping framework to make an explicit statement that it was not an application at all, but a toolkit for building mapping applications. This different approach resulted in a somewhat long curve to acceptance. In its infancy, the project was used only by developers: people who had a strong knowledge of what they wanted to do, and needed to have more control over their tools in order to do it. This early audience helped to build a rapid development environment where many of the users of the code were also able to contribute fixes and improvements based on their needs. This developer-friendly environment may be one of the key differences that has allowed OpenLayers development to continue to grow.
More is included in the full article, available as a PDF from the GeoConnexion website.