It happens all the time. It's practically the primary definition of 'free software' and any honest free software advocate will tell you that straight up. It's why most people are smart enough to avoid free software.
"Free software? You mean, the stuff that kind of exists today and is gone tomorrow?"
Take Lyceum, for instance. Their last blog post happened 5 months ago.
Why did it die? Who knows? Who cares? William Hurley sums up open source software nicely when talking about a project he's been involved with lately ('Ozomoto'?), when he says (2:25):
So, it's a ruby on rails project that is, uh, basically, hopefully going to be one of the ruby on blogs that sticks around more than...after it works after nobody maintains it anymore, as soon as a developer gets a job or a girlfriend, then the project is dead.Here's the thing - he's not kidding. Whether these two particular reasons are the most popular reasons for the death of projects or not is besides the point - anything can make a project go kaput in the night. Every free software project has a bum ticker.
In response, the host, Thomas Tucker, says:
It's dead. Totally dead. That tends to be the case sometimes which is not so great.I praise them both for their honesty.
Of course, 'Ozomoto' appears to be dead and gone, if it ever really was.
What's the lesson, here?
Well, don't use open source software, of course.
The problem is that open source software is so conflated with free software that the two are virtually the same. It doesn't have to be that way, but it is.
So, if you want to build a website for yourself or your customers, and you want to be taken seriously, don't use free open source software - it'll end in disaster. There is open source, 'free' software you can use - stuff like WordPress that is subsidized by a corporate sponsor, but projects without a corporate backer are almost always doomed to fail, and fail hard when you most need them.
One topic we'd like to revisit, here, in the near future is the centrality of elitism, arrogance, ignorance, and selfishness to the free software movement.