What happend to the Nextcloud foundation?

It has been more than 4 years now since Nextcloud forked from ownCloud. I still remember the excitement from the early days and switched over my ownCloud installation as quickly as I could. Since then I have been a happy user.

However one thing has been bugging me over the years. When the fork happened big promises were being made about giving the community a bigger voice. While I do think Nextcloud cares more about the community. I don’t feel we are given much of a voice. Nextcloud GmbH just develops what they want. Sure part of this is due to customers. But all this effort that went into OnlyOffice and Collabora one click installers that only work very sporadically. However I feel a lot of things people want are somewhat ignored (rock solid sync and share) but instead there is a focus on new fancy features.

But one of the big promises was that there would be a Nextcloud Foundation. That would at the very least hold the trademark. if not do more in the general managing of the project. However non of that has happend as far as I can tell. I understand things take time but more than 4 years?

I’d be very interested in a reply on this from the core group of people.

For reference:

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I think Nextcloud foundation is good idea and registered for this reason.

@jospoortvliet is there more info on progress on foundation? Can I help by joining? Would be lovable a lot.

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I’m a bit disappointed nobody from Nextcloud GmbH took the time to reply here.

So here a dedicated ping from what I could distill from the moderator group here and nextcloud.com/team

Can one of you respond here? @frank @nickvergessen @rullzer @jan

Hi all,

Sorry for the lack of reply, we’re a little busy with the upcoming release :wink:

Frankly, the foundation hasn’t gotten much thought lately. Note that it only ever was meant to hold the trademark, so things like @FriendlyGamer mentioned would not be affected by it.

Our main concern was making sure that if this company didn’t work out somehow, the trademark would belong to the community and not the business and couldn’t be sold to some random other company without the community’s consent like happened with ownCloud. And we still like to do that, of course, but there’s little urgency at the moment - our company is doing very well, still completely independent and thus the risk is minimal.

Still, I realize that that is saying “I’m not sick right now so I don’t need a health insurance” so perhaps this is something to discuss at the next Nextcloud conference (Sept/Oct this year).

Hi,

Thanks for replying. But this sounds like a lame excuse.

  1. You explicitly said this during your ‘launch presentation’. I hope you can see how unreliable it looks when this is not done after 4.5 years
  2. The problem is that once things go bad then of course for sure nobody will setup the a foundation. So the community is screwed again
  3. Discussing it in 9 months? Are you serious? So we bury it again. Then maybe something happens but most likely we are in the same situation then in a year an nothing has happened yet. Why is there time in 9 months but not now to kick this off?
  4. The foundation is about more than just the trademark. It gives the community a say. Right now the only ones that manage the project is the company. They decide what gets in and what not. Very specific things for Nextcloud GmbH customers get merged. But for others this is not so easy to get something in. Or to veto things.

So I have to agree with @FriendlyGamer a bit at least.
It is not that Nextcloud GmbH doesn’t do things for the community (the OnlyOffice and Collabora apps come to mind of the recent year). But it is that this all is done somewhere in secret. And nobody even asked us if this was something we’d need.

All of this is even fine. But you can’t eat your cake and have it. When you say time and time again that you want to work with and listen to the community. You should then do it.

There was a lot of noise around the foundation. And I think a lot of people rallied around Nextcloud because having a foundation means that the project is in more neutral hands. But if then nothing happens for 4.5 years this is just a huge disappointment.

You are right about the first points, we promised we would do it and we didn’t. But it is a fair bit if boring, legal work, with no direct benefit, and I honestly have 100 things to do that have more positive, immediate benefits for Nextcloud than this that I don’t have time for, same goes for pretty much everyone else here. And, as it is about handing over our trademark to an independent organization, it can’t exactly be done by an outsider.

The noise there was was simply - what I said. We wanted to avoid a similar situation as we had with ownCloud. A foundation could prevent that. But that’s it. And the urgency is largely gone, as we’re very stable and healthy, business-wise - we are not going anywhere other than, well grow.

With regards to point 4 - that entirely depends on the setup of the foundation. And that setup would be so that it has zero control over development. If you want something merged in Nextcloud, develop it. As far as I know, we never had a situation where something was not merged because ‘the company’ didn’t want it, and I doubt that that will happen. Decisions are made on technical grounds, so the foundation shouldn’t make any difference anyhow.

You’re certainly right that the things ‘we’ do for the community happen in secret. That is largely done for marketing reasons (we really don’t like announcing things before there is at least a tech preview, and we can’t announce something that’s been out there for months either). But a foundation wouldn’t change that either, as the foundation would not tell us what to work on in any case. How would that work? A community board deciding what Nextcloud engineers work on? No foundation around an open source project works that what from what I know, and I can’t imagine it would work for anyone.

Foundations, even very active and well funded ones like the Linux Foundation, typically have no say in the development itself - they might organize events or handle some legal stuff. But if you want something to happen, code-wise, you have to do the work or pay somebody to do that. A foundation doesn’t change that.

Right now, we do the legal and event stuff for the Nextcloud community. We COULD hand those tasks to a foundation, but generally that just means more bureaucracy and slower work, so we wouldn’t. A foundation, if one is created by us, would hold the trademark, meet once every year to all agree again there is nothing to discuss, and that’s it. It would do nothing until Nextcloud GmbH gets sold or goes bankrupt.

If other people in the community want to create a foundation to do, well, something else - ehm, ok, go ahead. But generally, a foundation TAKES work, it doesn’t DO work. And it sure can’t tell other people what to do. So if there is something you want to change in Nextcloud, CHANGE IT. Once there’s a team of people doing something, perhaps a foundation is needed somehow. But I find it hard to imagine what that would look like.

Then maybe my view of a foundation is different. But for example the KDE e.V. does a lot more than hold the trademark. Also the Linux foundation does a lot more. But fair enough this is a choice.

So your argument is that ‘we wanted to avoid a similar situation as with ownCloud’. But then don’t follow trough because for 4.5 years nobody has time for it? This to me sounds like the Nextcloud Foundation is close to being Vaporware. Also your comments above ‘lets discuss it again at the conference’ just pushes it forward without any concrete action ever being taken.

I mean Nextcloud even seems to see other benefits of a foundation. See Nextcloud founder wins innovation award, donates prize money to open source diversity fund – Nextcloud

It would even be fine if you say we just said this because it sounded good when we launched and generated a lot of publicity and positive noise. But now we don’t want to do it. But own your promises and decisions.

Then regarding your response to the development. Like I said my vision then of a foundation is different. But even without a foundation I must say that what you say and what you do don’t line up to me. I hear grant things being said with working with the community and listening to the community. However what I see often (and also what your reply suggests to me). Is that people that can code won’t be actively blocked by getting code into Nextcloud. But there is a lot more to community and the people using it than just accepting PRs.

An example that comes to mind where the company forced its own vision (and what would not have been accepted if the community did it I think) is the new Dashboard. This killed the old dashboard from one release to the next. The result might be better in the end (subjective but I like the dashboard). However my point is that you can’t say all contributions are equal and then have a special role for some people that are paid.

As said a community is more than people that can contribute code. It is listening to the users of your software what they find important. I know my sample group is small but every release another feature that is presented as the best thing ever just to be dropped and not touched again is not helping. Your github issue counter just keeps rising. All of this scares me a bit to be honest.

Again I’m not saying the path Nextcloud is wrong. But I just don’t see you stepping up currently to make true on the big promises you make. It is even fine to say right now we can’t care about the community to much because we first need to make a healthy business. But be honest.

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It was more like something we did intended to do but in time, it kept getting pushed further and today, it doesn’t seem that important anymore. We didn’t plan to talk about it but then not do it, if that’s what you think… Somethings plans just don’t work out.

I do agree the way the dashboard was handled wasn’t very nice either. We generally try to work with community members doing something interesting - but of course, that is hard if an app goes unmaintained. However, I don’t think that is per-se a community vs company thing. If a volunteer had build a new, much better app, the same could have happened. But it is hard to know for sure. There is of course kind of a train effect, where our full-time employed people move quick and it is hard to keep up for a casual contributor. We have to do better in that area. But we are not ignoring this - see for example nextcloud.com/developer where we tried to bring resources in one place for 3rd party devs.

As said a community is more than people that can contribute code. It is listening to the users of your software what they find important.

I don’t think we ignore users, not at all. But also, we don’t always listen to those who simply are the loudest. Keep in mind that Nextcloud has literally 1000x more users than are on these forums or on github. And of course, the dev choices we make end up a compromise between the many demands, from customers, private users, ppl on github and forums, our own vision and so on. It’d be impossible to keep everyone happy.

I know my sample group is small but every release another feature that is presented as the best thing ever just to be dropped and not touched again is not helping.

You make it sound like that’s the norm… I don’t want to say this never happens, but in most cases it is simply because a feature might not be as useful or interesting as we thought. And in other cases, we pick it up later. We can only focus on so many things in a release, after all.

Your github issue counter just keeps rising. All of this scares me a bit to be honest.

Yeah, the issues are very hard to control. It simply requires way more people to work on, a reason why we of course need to keep growing and hiring people. But I think this issue growth isn’t just a reflection of the stability, as much as a reflection of the growing user base. People will always file lots of issues, even if the software is perfect. Many don’t read the documentation, there can be issues in the rest of the platform, people ask for features or are just trying to use github for free support and so on.

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So is that you saying there won’t be a Nextcloud foundation?

I was hoping other people (from the community and the company) would have chimed in here. Because it kind of feels like I’m getting the tailored marketing answers to my remarks about the foundation and community. (No blame, there is a reason there is a “Marketing and PR” behind your name). But I’d be really curious to learn if what I write here are just my experiences and understandings or if they are more widely shared.

Well, it’s not the most urgent thing but it’s good to ask for it. If with the conference later this year we get this started and then perhaps finished until the end of this end, that would be ok for everybody. Still it is not urgent but it’s not forgotten so when one day NC is out of business, there is a foundation. If there are people from the community who are familiar with legal stuff and like to help, this could help.

The well-being of the community and the company is a different topic. Sure, you can pack this as well in the foundation. But there are some issues, and the best is to talk about that. Conferences are very nice so we can talk about it and exchange some ideas. In person (not sure, this year could still be via streaming), discussions are more constructive than forum posts.

So, since we probably do it only, we can perhaps find some time after a release to discuss a few things with marketing and developers guys. From the community, it would be great to represent the different user types, e.g. more the end user, translation people, developers, other contributors. What do you think?

Thanks for you input :slight_smile:

I keep hearing it is not the most urgent thing. But such things never are until they are and then it is too late. I don’t know the details of the situation and only what I read in the blog posts and saw in videos. But I imagine the fork of ownCloud could have been avoided if there would have been a foundation.

I appreciate your stance. But from what I read from @jospoortvliet above it sounds more as that the company is not interested in this “right now”. What I interpret as saying we don’t want to back out on the promise so maybe one day. But we won’t commit to anything. I hope I’m to cynical and that I’m proven wrong.

While I do agree. I’m afraid I’m in no position to join the conference.
Like I said above then maybe my ideas of a conference are different than what the Nextcloud founders had in mind. Which is totally fine.

I don’t mean to setup a whole tasks force, I also frankly don’t have the time for that right now. I was simply stating that I in my little echo chamber a lot of people would care more about finished products and stability. But I feel I’m not alone every time I see a thread on hackernews about Nextcloud there are a bunch of comments with bad experiences to be fair there is also a lot of praise.
And I see similar things when check reddit.

Of course we have to adjust the bias here a bit as often people that have a bad experience are the ones that shout the loudest. But it just goes to show there are quite some that do have bad experiences.

But then if I see the rest of the replies in this topic it feels as if the voice of the Nextcloud GmbH (in this case @jospoortvliet) doesn’t see this. Or at least not as an issue. Which is disappointing but I hope that he is right.

However as I said in my first post I just made this account to bring up the foundation question. And I think I have my answer. I’ll go back to being a user again as I don’t have the time or resources to spend a lot more time here. I hope I did not offend anybody with my posts (as I seemed to have gotten some defensive answers), my intend was never that (then I would have chosen other examples :wink: ).

All the best to the project. And I do hope I’m proven wrong.

For that reason, it doesn’t have to be me or you in particular. However, it needs people to put in ideas how to solve the issue. There are a few echo chambers with similar topics and complaints coming up more often.

It’s a very good point. This commitment in the beginning, to do certain things differently from ownCloud, was probably convincing people. Luckily, they still stick to their initial ideas but unfortunately, they didn’t find the time in the startup phase to put such a foundation in place. To push them a little is ok :wink:

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