14 June, 2016

On Open Source, forking and collaboration: Nextcloud 9 is here!

The nature of Open Source is, in a sense, dualistic. It encourages collaboration through the threat of not collaborating--a fork. When I was approached by Struktur AG to join them to work on ownCloud and Spreed, I loved the idea. I always wanted an ecosystem around ownCloud, which is why I pushed things forward like our collaboration with Western Digital Labs and Collabora, matters of no business interest to the company I worked for. I believe a stronger ecosystem benefits everybody.

Ecosystems and confidence

A major point which makes open source so beneficial for businesses is that it puts pressure on suppliers to offer great service and support. If they don't, another can enter the market and out-service them. Tight control over the community tough things like CLA and trademark makes it hard to grow such an ecosystem and negates some of the benefits of open source for customers.

Luckily, in the end, the AGPL license protects the future of a project, even if its steward clings to power. From conversations with Niels early on, it was clear to me that he has a very different and very confident view on his ability to run a real open source company. His history at Red Hat results in frequent comparisons. And indeed, Red Hat runs things the right way, even supporting a project like CentOS which many other companies would consider an existential threat to their business model. Just as their investment in opensource.com shows: they aim to grow the pie, not grab a bigger slice.

former 'enterprise feature' done right (and open)

I'm super proud and happy that we could announce today, with our first release, that Nextcloud will not be doing proprietary code. No closed apps means no inherent conflict between sales and community management/developers within the company, but a full alignment in one simple direction: servicing the customer.

And if you wonder about the collaboration with Collabora/LibreOffice Online and with Western Digital: yes, of course, we'll go full steam ahead and will facilitate where we can! No, we're not afraid that either would 'compete' with us: both will complement and strengthen the ecosystem. So we will work together.

Why? Because the core contributors and founder shared an ambitious goal for Nextcloud: be THE solution for privacy and security.