Brussels / 3 & 4 February 2018


Interview with Frank Karlitschek
Why I forked my own project and my own company. ownCloud to Nextcloud

Photo of Frank Karlitschek

Frank Karlitschek will give a talk about Why I forked my own project and my own company. ownCloud to Nextcloud at FOSDEM 2018.

Q: Could you briefly introduce yourself? And what will your talk be about, exactly? Why this topic?

So I founded the ownCloud project 8 years ago. A lot of things worked really well. A big free software volunteer community grew around the project and pushed the software forward. After two years I cofounded a company around the project. This worked good at the beginning but a lot of mistakes were made later. So the core team including me left ownCloud and founded Nextcloud. In Nextcloud we do a lot of things in a better way. From a more open community development process, no dual licensing and no open core business model anymore. We also don’t have external investors anymore.

I will discuss this journey in my talk.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish by giving this talk? What do you expect?

So a ton of people asked over the 1.5 years what exactly happened. A lot of people from other projects also asked for advice what mistakes we made and how to avoid them. In this talk I want to answer this questions.

Q: Six years after you founded ownCloud and more than four years after you co-founded the company ownCloud Inc., you decided to start over, with Nextcloud (both the project and the company) as a result. When you announced this, you cited some “moral questions”. What was the single deciding factor that brought you to this decision?

I don’t think there was one single factor. It was a combination of things that are not going well. The community was unhappy, the company was not in a good shape and other factors. This is what we wanted to fix. And I’m happy to say that we manage to do that with Nextcloud.

Q: What were the first reactions of the ownCloud community when they heard about your decision?

Well when I quit my job at ownCloud, the company I cofounded, then I got a ton of questions of course. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to answer them at this point in time for legal reasons. But later when the core team and me established Nextcloud and the community saw what we are doing then I got a ton of positive feedback. This mad me really happy and boosted the motivation of the complete Nextcloud community.

Q: Has Nextcloud, both the project and the company, become what you planned it to be?

Well if you know me then you know that I’m very ambitious. So there is always stuff that could be better and improved. But overall the Nextcloud team including me is very happy with what we have built here. Nextcloud as an open source and free software project as it should be and the Nextcloud company has a real open source business model. So yes, I’m happy. But we haven’t won again the big cloud services yet. So there is still a lot to do!

Q: What are the essential differences between Nextcloud and ownCloud concerning their business model and community relations?

I will discuss this in my talk in detail. It’s mainly the fact that Nextcloud is not doing an open core business model and not selling dual licensing software. This also means that we don’t want to own the Nextcloud code. So there is no contributor license agreement. But there are a lot more differences that I discuss in my talk.

Q: How are developer relations between ownCloud and Nextcloud? Is there still some kind of collaboration going on? Are there patches flowing between both projects?

Yes. We sometimes take patches from ownCloud if we like them and if they are fully free software. They decide to not take our code because they want to have the full code ownership instead of ‘only’ free software. So the patches are flowing in one direction.

Q: Which new features can we expect this year in Nextcloud?

The community is working on a lot of interesting stuff as far as I know. At the moment I’m happy that we finally released Nextcloud Talk which is a 100% open source and free software video/voice/chat communication platform including new iOS and Android apps. All of this can be activated on every Nextcloud server with only one click.

And there is the upcoming Nextcloud 13 release in a few weeks which comes with end to end encryption. And we are only in January.

Q: Have you enjoyed previous FOSDEM editions?

FOSDEM is my favourite free software conference. It’s very unique and a great opportunity to meet everyone in the free software world and collaborate. And I’m not even talking about the great Belgium beer.

Creative Commons License
Creative Commons License

This interview is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Belgium License.