I’m just wanting it to reclaim its leading role
By that I assume you mean you want it to be cutting edge, bring awesome new features that other systems don’t have, etc? While I am certain that CodeIgniter is not going to randomly die or anything silly like that, “reclaiming its leading role” is not something I can see on the horizon.
CodeIgniter has always been about backward compatibility (with its own API and PHP versions) meaning that it cannot take advantage of PHP 5.3 features for a while yet - while other frameworks are wholeheartedly adopting namespaces. CakePHP is even adopting traits as it is PHP 5.4 only, which will change things entirely for them.
This is all really good as it means when you are stuck needing to build a project with PHP 5.2 you have a well documented framework to use, which a LOT of people are able to pick up and run with. This however will be considered really bad if you’re NOT one of those people who are stuck using PHP 5.2. That is anybody working solo, hosting their clients, building web-apps where they control the environment, etc.
The number of people requiring PHP 5.2 is dwindling (and quite rightly so) so one day when EllisLab no longer wish to support PHP 5.2 for ExpressionEngine they’ll be able to break that requirement and PHP 5.3 will be the minimum. At that point CodeIgniter could be rewritten to take advantage of awesome new PHP features suck as autoloading and namespaces, even PSR compliance, but that would break the API and as such everyone using CI would be forced to rewrite all of their applications - including EllisLab - so it’s in nobodies interests to do that.
CodeIgniter 3.0 was all about improving CI as much as possible without breaking everything for everyone, which it has managed to do and I am very proud to have been part of that. But at some point CI will need a total re-write to remain “up to date” with other frameworks - most of which are rewriting themselves all of the time.
FuelPHP 2.0 is a rewrite of FuelPHP 1.x.
Laravel 4 is a total rewrite of Laravel 3, which was a total rewrite of 1 and 2 (all done within the same year)
Kohana 1, 2 and 3 have all be total rewrites.
Symfony 1 and 2 are extremely different
Compare that to CodeIgniter which can be upgraded from 1.7.0 to 3.0 in about an hour.
Some frameworks are happy to rewrite, but this community has always been very happy that we’ve managed to avoid it. At the same time, if you want something that is bleeding edge you have to run the risk that the next version is going to totally break you application. You can’t have “slow and stable” and “fast and cool”.
So pick whichever you feel is best. CI will remain a logical choice for enterprise teams who want to KNOW their code wont change and have the ability to throw pretty much any junior developer at the source code, but people who want the “cool new stuff” will be using something else. That shouldn’t be an issue, and you shouldn’t be worried about it.