I spotted something delicious over on Planet Ubuntu recently:
upstart is a replacement for the init daemon, the process spawned by the kernel that is responsible for starting, supervising and stopping all other processes on the system.
What's so yummy about this? Well, they've got a damn good project outline, explaining why there's a need to replace the ancient init daemon, how upstart is designed, and how it's different from existing solutions such as Apple's launchd and initng. Lastly, it also explains what the state of the project is and what direction it's headed in. This is almost enough to make sure a project succeeds right there - well, that, along with a good leader and lots of free time.
While Upstart is now in Edgy's Universe repository, it's not actually going to be standard in the next Ubuntu. I'm surprised that a next-gen init system hasn't landed in a mainstream distro as of yet. (After a shallow googling, the only distro I could find with InitNG was the obscure Berry Linux.) Most of these next-gen init systems cut startup times, which would make a noticeable difference to the end user. Unfortunately, most of these new init systems just aren't quite ready for public consumption, but when they are, you can bet we'll finally see Linux boot much faster.