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Jul 19 2019

Words from the CEO for the #15yearsofXWiki party

On the 8th of July, we celebrated 15 years of XWiki. In this celebration, we were joined by XWiki Alumni, friends of the company and the Open Source project, and some lovely clients. 

Below, you can find a written version of the speech Ludovic Dubost, the CEO and creator of XWiki, held that evening. Note that the following text is not the exact transcription of Ludovic's speech, but the written version before the actual speech.

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This party celebrates 15 years of efforts from all the XWikiers to grow a sustainable company building Free and Open Source software that matters. It means a lot to me and the XWikiers to have you all here tonight.

It is very hard to summarize 15 years in a simple and short speech, and I'm not very famous for being able to keep it short. I'll do my best.

A good approach would be to summarize it by the objective. When I created XWiki, I did not fully know what I was doing. I'm not saying I do know now, but at the time I came out of an experience in the Internet Bubble, working for a company that was successful in the bubble. That success means that today it doesn't exist anymore. The company raised money, built great proprietary technology, went in 15 countries, made little revenue, when on the stock market, and eventually was sold for 10 times less than it was valued before. The technology that we had to build went in part to the trash bin.

Free and Libre Open Source Software

 Open Source has been my main answer, knowing that by building our software as Open Source it would still be there whatever happens.

Later, as I built XWiki, I discovered more about FLOSS Software, and participating in this movement has become something very important. Free Software is about control. The movement was created with the objective of users regaining control on software. Today, although we have more Open Source software, the lack of control is still a big concern, as from Proprietary Software companies giving you software that you don't control but that you install in your home or company, we have moved to Cloud companies providing services mainly built on Open Source code, but that you still do not control. While the FLOSS movement has progressed we are still lacking the FLOSS based end services and software that allow us to keep control. What XWiki does today, providing both software and services fully as Free Software is even more relevant and important.

I'm very proud that XWiki is part of an important and vibrant movement in France and Europe, alongside many other companies and organizations. These organizations are important as they show how important Free and Open Source is. Some of them have joined us today: April, or OW2, but it's also worth mentioning CNLL, AFUL, Framasoft, La Quadrature du Net and internationally FSF, OSI or free software events like FOSDEM.

Software that matters

Knowledge: Another objective was to build software that matters. In my previous job in 2001, thanks to Erwan, I discovered wikis and we set it up to share knowledge in our team. I had found software that matters. Wikis matter, because they help share knowledge. Sharing knowledge matters for many reasons. First, it is very important for companies to make them more successful, but it also helps people grow when accessing more knowledge through companies or public wikis. "Knowledge is Power" said Francis Bacon.

 Knowledge empowers individuals and allows them to become team members instead of tasks executors. For us, at XWiki "Knowledge is Power ... so it should be shared"

Going a step forward, we should be proud that XWiki is being used to make knowledge accessible to probably millions of peoples, inside 7000 organizations that have XWiki installed, and through public websites with tens of thousands of visitors.

Clients and Users: And not only we build the software, but we also help companies make better use of it and setup knowledge sharing systems. Throughout the years we have been able to work on many great subjects, including Education Knowledge Sharing, Information Sharing for the Public Service (CNFPT), Knowledge Sharing for train repair or answering calls from people having had an accident, lately the Historical Lexicon of Switzerland, MonAvis system for allowing citizens to vote on dematerialized public services. We have also worked on medical wikis such as the CDLS World community helping parents with sick children or the Children Knowledge Network in Canada. We are also happy to bring knowledge sharing to medium-sized company with XWiki Cloud and even to individuals with CryptPad. Since we launched these two products we have had subscribers from 20 different countries.

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A big thank you for our clients and supporters who participate in building our Open Source Software.

Privacy: More recently, the subject of privacy has emerged. The Snowden revelations have shown that we don't know who has access to our data and for what. The business model of cloud services has fuelled a surveillance economy that we cannot control anymore, as it has been used to influence elections. The progress of cloud as a more convenient system for users both in terms of usage and price, combined with the greed of business fighting for the "winner takes it all" spot, is driving us into a wall.

At XWiki we had the opportunity to do something about it, so we took it: working on our realtime editors, Caleb (Alumnus) found a way to make realtime editing work without needing the server to read the content.
It's worth telling how I almost killed this project. 

 One day I come in the research office and Caleb tells me how he just recoded the realtime synchronisation in Javascript instead of Java. My first question was whether this was really needed. The NIH syndrome is very popular amongst developers.
- Why exactly did you recode it? 
- So I used the blockchain to allow to manage the order of patches and then reimplemented Operational Transform in Javascript, and now the server is only transmitting the data, so we can encrypt. 
Obviously, he knew he was talking to a CEO, and that he would get me with the word "blockchain".

But he got something there. This technology is a breakthrough allowing new types of applications which are "privacy by default" and "Zero-Knowledge". This gave birth to the Open Source software CryptPad and CryptPad.fr which has more and more users and supporters. 10000 users per week are accessing CryptPad from around the world, 300+ instances are running protecting users content. Not only are we breaking new technological ground with this project, but also we are trying a new business model, through low-cost subscriptions and crowdfunding. 

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I would like to thank our subscribers for the CryptPad service. Also, to our supporters that have donated and, as well, to BPI France that funded our research project for many years. Of course, I wouldn't want to forget NLNet that is currently funding CryptPad's roadmap, allowing us to actively continue the development of software and the service.

More generally, I would like to thank the public bodies that have funded our research throughout the years: Ville de Paris, Ile de France Region, Agence Nationale de la Recherche and the European Community have been great supporters of this work. I would like to thank also the partners that have invited us on their projects: Mandriva, Nexedi, INRIA, Linagora, University of Catalona and many more. We would not be as far without these funding. 

Giving people more than a job: Another thought that crossed my mind when I created XWiki, was how would I build a company that would not repeat what I didn't like in the companies I worked for as an employee. The answer to this hasn't been to build a campus with beanbags, slides & bikes, but to try to make a transparent and open company, based on general trust. A company where employees have a project they can believe in and focus their work towards the same goal: better product, better services, better us.

In the case of our small business, we aimed to:

  • get people paid for the work they do;
  • keep reasonable amounts of pressure or constraint;
  • make it a successful business that is competitive in our industry;
  • keep the company independent, without raising money, and not end up being sold to the highest bidder;
  • all of the above, without forgetting to provide the code of our products as Open Source, usable for everyone.

We do have a baby foot table though.

Obviously, if you can get the paycheck coming in without any pressure or constraint, it might be easier to have a happy team. But XWiki has not been about trying to solve easy problems. I believe it's important to not stop at easy, especially in the IT industry. I believe that we, working in IT, are privileged today, as we are in a market where the demand is high.

I find this privilege particularly applies to me, having had the chance to be born and raised in a country and by parents that gave me a lot of security and allowed me to benefit from high-level education. I have learned this is not as obvious as it may seem. I use this occasion to thank my family for this. So, this privilege gives us a responsibility to try to do more. 

Europe & Romania

Another reason we chose to go for Open Source software is that at XWiki, we believe in the European software industry. Even though our industry has become more and more prevalent, it is massively dominated by US companies, today the same as 15 years ago. The French and European software and internet industry are still weak and working hard to catch up. I've always believed, thanks also to my "European" education, having lived in Germany as a kid, that Europe is highly important for our future and that we need to collaborate more across Europe.

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While I'm proud that we build this company initially out of France, I've always thought of XWiki as an international company being able to span frontiers.

It's not an easy fight. I wish I could be positive, but unfortunately, we are struggling to get a united Europe. The software industry is not an exception. Europe invests in R&D and we are very grateful for the help, but we do not see an industrial strategy at the European level trying to bring our companies closer together. Investment in startups is national. In France, Startup Nation and FrenchTech are everywhere in the press reinforcing a nationalistic point of view. XWiki SAS is a proud Open Source EuroTech. ​​​​

I'm particularly proud that we have to build XWiki as a Franco-Romanian company. I did not know Romania before Sergiu (Alumnus). After being a Summer of Code student, he helped create XWiki in Romania, in 2007. Twelve years later, I discovered a beautiful country with many talents and lots of new friends. I'm very proud of our team in Iasi that has joined us today, and everything they have achieved at XWiki. Also, XWiki has changed the personal lives of quite a few people, including my own. I'm glad that I had something to do with it. If we will have failed everything else, at least this cannot be taken away.

This project is yours

I want to make one thing clear: this is your company and your achievements. It was achieved by the highly talented XWikiers:

  • it is the XWiki Product Squad endless hours releasing 12 XWiki versions per year, our QA team running the same tests over and over again, trying to catch bugs;
  • it is the Client Squads leads by our account managers, spending long meetings with clients to sell projects, and get them delivered;
  • it is the Client Team's architect's and developer's talent building the projects and taking responsibility to make them work;
  • it is our Support Squad, keeping our clients happy, whatever happens;
  • it is the Cryptpad Squad, previously our research team, working hard to get research projects, deliver them and break new grounds;
  • it is our Marketing Squad getting us at conferences and helping us having great brochures, flyers, stickers, and tee-shirt for these events, catching our leads, with only a fraction of the budget of the big players;
  • it is our HR Squad getting young engineers to see beyond the size of your logo on the building and keep us happy while making our two offices work smoothly and seamlessly;
  • it is our Community which uses XWiki, makes it known, contributes to our forums and extensions. There are no small contributions to Free and Open Source software;
  • it is the research funding agencies and our research partners which allow us to get funding for our research and innovation and build new capabilities and release them as Open Source.
  • it is our clients who buy our services, our cloud, our support and is funding the development of these projects and allows this company model to exists.

Thank you for making this possible. I suppose, if we are still there after those 15 years, earning more than we spend year after year, we have succeeded.

You should be all proud of this achievement! This INCREDIBLE achievement!

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Drawing of the evening, courtesy of Bénédicte Roullier

What does the future hold for XWiki

Technology continues to evolve, and XWiki needs to embrace the changes. Virtualisation is an incredible trend, and the browser is the key tool everybody is using now.

With new technologies like WebAssembly, we can expect that we should soon be able to run the Java JVM and MySQL in the browser and therefore run XWiki in the browser itself. If we can run XWiki in the browser, then we should be able to run XWiki inside CryptPad and allowing to combine our two products and bring encryption to XWiki.

Well, who knows what can happen in 15 years, maybe it will be possible!

More seriously, in the next 15 years, XWiki SAS will be what you decide it should be. We have created the Squad structure to create team autonomy and make each team focus on its sustainability and its key goals. What XWiki SAS does will evolve with you!

On my side I hope 15 years from now, XWiki SAS will have grown XWiki and made many more knowledge projects and that will be more integrated with other popular Open Source solutions and that together these products can help our companies and countries regain technological independence. XWiki SAS wants to help, but we cannot do this alone. 

On the CryptPad side, I'm confident we will reach sustainability thanks to our users and supporters helping CryptPad spread. CryptPad has enormous potential to change the way software is being built and used, focusing on privacy first. I wish new squads will exist. XWiki SAS should be your home for building great sustainable free software products. 

To finish I'd like to raise my glass to all those that helped us, that share our goals and to all our team.

After bragging for an hour about the work we do, I would like to close by raising my glass to the many, inside and outside XWiki, that do even harder and more important work, silently tackle the non-easy tasks, without being in the spotlight. It's not always those of whom we speak the most that do the most important work.

Happy 15 years!

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Jun 28 2019

Improving Customer Experience with our enhanced Cloud Customer Portal

Over the years XWiki Network has been the place where we spend most of our time communicating with our support clients.

We have recently started to work on the revamping of our support platform for our cloud users. You can access the newer version of our customer portal directly from the cloud wiki using “Report an issue”.

The latest XWiki Network includes

  • improvements for the management of support tickets with a better editor for reporting a support ticket
  • the possibility to purchase apps (including XWiki Pro, the full set of productivity and business-oriented applications) directly from the Shop*

At XWiki, we have always been focused on improving customer satisfaction by gathering as much feedback as possible which we then take into account as we discuss work on new features and improving our services.

For several years we have been sending out a yearly survey encouraging our clients to offer their opinion on both the services we provide but also on the product.

While the number of clients that have filled in the survey has remained steady, the question on our mind was how we could get more regular feedback. We wanted to keep it simple, with just a few clicks. Consequently, we have added just one rating option and a feedback box (in case our services rate lower than “Excellent” emoticon_wink ).

Gathering more feedback will help us know when we do well and where we can improve our services, so we encourage all our cloud users to click the rating they feel is closer to their customer experience.

Also, stay tuned for more improvements over the next period.

Oana Florea, Customer Support Manager

*Starting with level Silver, our Support clients will receive upon request a free voucher for XWiki Pro.

Jun 11 2019

Join us for the OW2'19 XWiki Meetup

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We’re hosting an XWiki Meetup at OW2 conference, in Paris, with talks from our clients at France Mobilités.

What is the XWiki Meetup?

The XWiki Meetup is a great opportunity to interact with the people developing XWiki and the ones that have chosen it for their information intelligence needs. Even more, we want to learn what future features you would like to see in XWiki, so we will launch a debate in which you can decide the future of XWiki. Exciting, isn't it?

Also, as the meetup it’s part of a larger event, you can meet lots of other interesting people and talks at the conference. See the full schedule here. OW2con'19 is the annual open source event bringing together the OW2 community, technology experts, software architects, IT project managers and decision-makers from around the world.

This Break-out Session, XWiki will:

- present the latest features in XWiki and enhancements brought by the newest versions;
- organize a Q&A/brainstorming session on new features for the XWiki ecosystem - let us know what you want to implement next;
- share testimonials from XWiki users regarding their daily experience with the product.

Who will be there?

Vincent Massol - CTO of XWiki SAS and an active committer of the XWiki open source project

Clément Aubin - Account Manager at XWiki SAS and an active committer of the XWiki open source project

Where and when will it be?

The Meetup will take place on Thursday, the 13th of June 2019 at Orange Gardens Hello Lab, between 9:15 AM - 10:45 AM.

See you there?

Jun 10 2019

How to Organize a Company Retreat

At XWiki, we are strong believers in flexibility, so we trust our team to choose when and where they can do their best work. Consequently, our team is distributed across multiple countries, with people working both from our offices and remotely.

A downside is that we need to make a conscious effort if we want to get everybody together in the same place. We regularly have colleagues traveling to our two offices, but the way we get everyone in the same spot is by organizing a team retreat once a year.

As we’re working on our 11th global get-together we thought it would be nice to share how we go about planning it and how we use tools to stay organized and on track.

The prep

Our retreat usually lasts about a week, with two days dedicated to travel. Starting January we create a detailed plan and budget for our retreat. We also like to build our own app to make sure it fits our specific needs. Once the groundwork is done, we start looking for the perfect time and setting.

Finding the perfect location

We begin every new year by scouting for the perfect location, get in touch with hotels and resorts that we think might be a good fit. In parallel, we run a poll on our intranet checking our team’s availability. Once we save the date and come up with the locations shortlist, we create a new poll and ask our team to vote for their favorite place.

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Transportation arrangements

As soon as we sign the contract with the location we start making the transportation arrangements. We try to have the team travel together as much as possible, but we also accommodate colleagues who travel from other locations or who wish to stay longer or less. Everyone receives their ticket by email and we have a page on our intranet where we put all the travel information. We always try to pick locations that are reasonably easy to get to.

Preparing the sessions

With most of the logistics taken care of, two months prior to the event, we start prepping the sessions and other on-site activities. Anyone at XWiki can use the dedicated Seminar app to propose talks they’d like to organize or participate in.
By now you’ve guessed we are big fans of polls at XWiki. We love using them to make decisions as a team. Whenever we have too many proposals, we launch a vote to pick the most interesting sessions.
Once we have the final schedule, we feature it on our intranet calendar and sync it with Google Calendar. We also export the schedule as a PDF, so people may use it offline should they wish.

Food, trip, and other fun activities

A large extent of our efforts goes towards planning the day trip, party, and team building activities. Much of the time on site though is spent hanging out, playing games and getting to know each other better.
One of the highlights of the retreat is the hackathon. It provides the perfect opportunity for all of us to work together in person. Anyone can suggest topics and the remaining colleagues will join one of the proposed ideas. Hackathon teams work on their projects throughout the day and get to present the results in the afternoon.
In terms of catering, we try to select a buffet menu that is diverse and satisfies varied tastes and dietary restrictions. Once we have collected team feedback and agreed on the final menu with the location, we share it with everyone.

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Goodies

No company retreat is complete without geeky T-Shirts and goodies. We come up with a custom logo for each retreat. Everyone can send a proposal. The most voted logo is then proudly worn on our t-shirts.

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Less fun, but equally important: keeping track of finances

All through the event prep, we make sure to regularly update our budget and expenses. To stay organized we upload all contracts, invoices, and tickets to our wiki and use livetables to filter and sort documents.

Feedback

At XWiki, we love giving and receiving feedback. As we aim to make retreats better every year, after each event we run an internal survey to see what went well and what could be improved.

That’s about it! Organizing a team retreat is no easy feat for our HR team, but it’s always worth it. As we’re writing this post, we’re in the last stages of planning our next seminar, which takes place in exactly one month from now. We’ll be starting out in Paris, then traveling to the Loire Valley. Looking forward to another good one and we’ll make sure to come back with updates!

Silvia Macovei, Head of Cloud Business

May 15 2019

Why choose an Open Source solution for your company

If you are the decision-maker for a startup or a large company, you count on people, employees or collaborators to create value for your customers. For that to happen, they need quick access to the right information at any given time. In our mobile-centric world, the collaborative solutions you choose will dictate the success of your business. You need a solution to organize your knowledge, communicate with various teams, and with the clients spread around the world.

Why choose a collaborative solution in lieu of traditional communication means? Information is getting lost in email threads, exposed to undesired audiences, or placed chaotically in documents that go back and forward. Your business is suffering when you and your collaborators don't have the right information or the solution required by the client. 

Ludovic Dubost, the Founder of XWiki and CEO of XWiki SAS, discussed with EFFORST on solutions for modern companies, for those decision-makers that want to scale business in a healthy way. 


Are our solutions right for you?

Are you struggling with information management and organization? XWiki has been built to help companies with knowledge organizing and sharing (with solutions as Intranet, Extranet, Digital Workplace, Knowledge Base and custom projects), ready to adapt to the specifics of your company and processes.

Do you and your online collaborators wish for an encrypted, private editing tool that provides total control in terms of the content and documents you are working on? CryptPad makes this possible with a web-based suite of editors that use encryption to provide private collaborative editing. Share text, code, presentations, polls, todo lists, kanbans and many more.

Our team is ready to offer professional services to help your company implement and tailor tools that answer to your needs. emoticon_smile

Mar 05 2019

Meet us at Digital Workplace 2019

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Let's talk about the importance of enterprise collaborative solutions at DIGITAL WORKPLACE EXPO 2019 happening at Paris Porte de Versailles, Pavilion 4.2, between 19 - 21 March.

Who will be there?

Clément Aubin

Clément is working at XWiki SAS as an Account Manager, while also being a student at the EISTI and at Grenoble Business School. He's been involved in the free and Open Source software world since 2015 when he joined a student organization named ATILLA, that promotes free and libre alternatives to proprietary solutions. Nowadays, most of his contributions to FOSS go into the development of the XWiki Open Source software, a great project in which he's been contributing for almost a year. 

Ludovic Dubost

Creator of XWiki and CEO of XWiki SAS, Ludovic has been the gentle organizer of the XWiki SAS company for 14 years. XWiki SAS leads the development of the XWiki Software used by thousands of organizations, including Amazon Inc. and helps companies and organizations all over the world organize, share, and collaborate on content. Advanced solutions have been developed to help companies manage support content, sales procedures, and knowledge or build complete collaborative Intranets. 

Schedule

Tuesday, 19 March

HourTalkRoom
16:15 - 17:15Ludovic at The latest collaborative and conversational innovations to know in 2019Espace Topos
17:00 - 18:00Ludovic at What are the alternatives to traditional collaborative suites? What does the French Tech industry offer?Voltaire

Wednesday, 20 March

HourTalkRoom
12:00 - 12:45Ludovic at the atelier Presentation of the Inter-Administration Extranet on the Quality of Online Procedures by DINSICDumas
16:15 - 17:15Ludovic at the round table Intranet, Digital workplace, Informative and collaborative tools, Enterprise Social Networks, instant messengers, EDM: how to mix them for better work and communication? Should there be a single platform or integrated tools?Voltaire

Thursday, 21 March

HourTalkRoom
13:15 - 14:15Clément at A digital workplace always more integrated and extended: how to do it?Voltaire
14:45 - 16:15Ludovic at Embark managers in your digital workplace or intranet project over timeEspace Topos

Looking forward to meeting you all and answer all the questions you might have about XWiki, CryptPad or our community. Until then, follow us on Twitter (XWiki and CryptPad) where we will keep you up-to-date with our latest developments.

Feb 28 2019

CryptPad received the NGI award

This week, in Barcelona, Aaron and Ludovic attended the 4YFN conference to pick up CryptPad's "Privacy and trust-enhanced technologies" Startup award granted by NGI.

CryptPad is an open-source, web-based suite of collaborative editors which employs client-side cryptography to ensure that the server is not able to access the contents of users’ documents. CryptPad offers a variety of editors and other multi-user applications: rich text, code editing with syntax highlighting and markdown preview, presentations, polls for scheduling, kanbans for project management, and whiteboards for collaborative illustration.

CryptPad is being actively developed by XWiki SAS and currently funded as part of the Open PAAS NG research project, funded by BPI France. For the last 14 years, XWiki SAS has been building Open Source Collaboration Software and providing professional services allowing organizations to better organize their information.

Our promise is that CryptPad cannot spy on its users and that your data is really your data.

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Why does it matter?

It is difficult for all of us to give up powerful Internet services and software which bring us great value, but at the same time, we do not like to see how our data is being used for advertisement, political means or malicious hacking. Today this NGI Award is showing that it is possible to get our privacy back while enjoying powerful and easy to use services. We built CryptPad to show how far a team can go to empower users and increase their expectation of privacy from online services. While it was previously accepted that collaborative editing meant sacrificing confidentiality, we’ve not only proven that private editing is possible, but we’ve made our entire platform open source to ensure that this technology remains available. 

Want to be a part of this movement?

  • Use CryptPad and other Zero Knowledge services every day, tell us what you like and what we can do better.
  • Talk to your friends and colleagues about Zero Knowledge, show them CryptPad and explain that this is what the cloud can be.
  • Candidate to XWiki SAS to join our team.

Show your support

  • Buy an upgraded account from Cryptpad.fr, run by the CryptPad development team, or contribute to our Open Collective.
  • If you install the Open Source code of CryptPad on your own servers, consider buying a support contract.
  • If you’re a web developer, think about Zero Knowledge for your next web app.

About the NGI Initiative and awards

NGI is Europe’s new approach to creating a more human-centric internet. It invites citizens and communities striving for values like openness, inclusivity, transparency, privacy, cooperation, and data protection to provide input, and thus to help to guide the European Next Generation Internet funding agenda. NGI is a European Commission initiative which is being implemented by project partners throughout Europe.

The overall mission of the Next Generation Internet initiative is to re-imagine and re-engineer the Internet for the third millennium and beyond. We envision the information age will be an era that brings out the best in all of us. We want to enable human potential, mobility, and creativity at the largest possible scale – while dealing responsibly with our natural resources. In order to preserve and expand the European way of life, we shape a value-centric, human and inclusive Internet for all.

Feb 08 2019

FOSDEM 2019 and the challenge to finance Open Source

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This article was first published on Ludovic Dubost's blog.

I'm coming back from FOSDEM and it has been again an amazing year. We have been super happy to be able to run a dev room about "Collaborative Information and Content Management Applications" which has been a success  (videos are available here). We also have been able to meet XWiki and CryptPad users and give out stickers (all of them are gone and we need to reorder some for our next events). I've been happy to see that the "privacy" subject becomes more and more understood and important to the users.

While I have not been able to attend of lot of talks, beyond the dev room, I've been able to watch the videos. I use the occasion to give KUDOS to the FOSDEM video team. Their video recording system is amazing and videos are getting online with checks from speakers in a record time.

XWiki & CryptPad Talks

I'll start by recommending my talks, as well as other XWikiers:

The Challenge to finance Free and Open Source

Now what I want most to talk about is the talks about Open Source financing and the state of Open Source, as I believe that Libre and Open Source Software is having some challenges that are from my point of view growing and related to the state of the whole software industry.

I'm very happy that there are more talks that bring the subject of financing on the table, as I believe we have too much ignored the "business" aspects as "Open Source" was taking over the world through mostly the first Open Source Professional companies, Software Services companies and Cloud providers.

However while the open code was spreading everywhere, we have not fully grasped where it was coming from and how it has been financed, and today as we see less VC investment in professional open source companies, as RedHat is being acquired by IBM, and as the leading Cloud Providers are eating the business of almost all the other actors and as most future business are being developed as Cloud Services, we are starting to see a fundamental change. 

Open code continues to grow of course, especially all the infrastructure and libraries which are mostly sponsored by the cloud or SaaS actors. However there are already tentions in this area as is shown by the debates about the SSPL/Commons clause licences. The talk by Michael Cheng (working as a lawyer at Facebook, talking on his own behalf) SSPL, Confluent License, CockroachDB License and the Commons Clause - Is it freedom to choose to be less free?  when into good detail about this. It was a very good talk. Now the one thing I believe it failed to talk about was about the future of infrastructure Open Source code given the change in the market forces. While I agree that changing the licence and creating licences that effectively are trying to recreate the "proprietary software model" is not a good thing for Open Source, on the other side, if it becomes impossible to build a significant infrastructure Open Source solution as a startup, investment in Open Source code will either reduce or be only coming from the big cloud and SaaS actors and we should not expect a high percentage of Open Source investment relative to the business of these cloud providers. In the end a massive challenge for Open Source is that it represents only a small fraction of the global technology investment in the world.

Another set of talks actually discussed about direct financing of libre and open source software. I'm really happy that these talks are getting more and more common and that new solutions are emerging to help finance the developers:

Next Generation Internet

First the Next Generation Internet initiative - Year Zero - Come work for the internet on privacy, trust, search & discovery by Michiel Leenaars from NLNet presented the European Community initiatives to finance the future of the internet and in particular Open Source Code, as 12 Millions Euros are being distributed in small project between 5k and 50k to help developed "Privacy Enhancing Technologies" and "Search & Discovery". We are candidating to these funds for CryptPad, and I'm a big fan of the approach of financing smaller size projects with public money versus the big projects with many partners. I believe France and BPI should take a similar approach to fund Open Source. 

Hackers gotta eat

Kohsuke Kawaguchi from Jenkins/Cloudbees had a great talk Hackers gotta eat, Building a Company Around an Open Source Project, which touched on the business models for Open Source and why running a company alongside a project is useful and what challenges there are. I believe we have similar experiences also at XWiki which we presented last year XWiki: a case study on managing corporate and community interests - 14 years of Open Source in a Small Co. and in 2013 in the talk Combining Open Source ethics with private interests

Something I also clearly believe in, is that by structuring a company it allows to raise the level of quality and offering that the Open Source software has. In our area there are tons of wiki softwares, but only the ones with a structure can really keep up.

Crowdfunding, bounties, sponsorship programs

There has been a few talks about new financing methods:

The second talk presents GitCoin a funding mechanism using blockchain for open source code. The third one shows a great Open Source sponsorship program at INDEED where 120 K$ will be directed towards open source projects based on what is being used and voted by those who contribute. The objective, which I support, is not only to bring money but also to foster participation from inside INDEED to the projects. It is indeed (no pun intended) important to not only fund the projects but also to increase participations from the users.

The first talk gave a very good overview of different ways and new methods, including OpenCollective, GitCoin, Tidelift.

I've stolen a few slides to show them here (I hope Tobie Langel will be ok with it) because it's really important to understand this:

This is what currently OpenCollective/Tidelift have collected/committed for Open Source code:

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and this is how it compared to the Trillion dollar technology industry developer wages:

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A very good question was asked at the end of the talk about wether there is a measurement of the direct company investment in Open Source, and nobody was able to answer. It could be estimated as:

  • How much R&D is being sponsored by Open Source companies

You could use the COSSC Index of commercial open source companies (http://OSS.Cash - Google Docs) , which evaluates the revenue of these companies to 16 Billions Euros / year. Discounting a bit this revenue to 10B$, because some of these companies are not necessarily investing the massive amount of their R&D to Open Source software, and considering a 10% R&D investment, this would mean about $1B Open Source R&D.

  • How much R&D is being sponsored by Cloud providers, SaaS companies or traditional companies

If we consider the whole rest of the software industry, in the presentation above, the total wages of the developers in the world has been estimated to around 1 Trillion dollars (this is the big tower in the image).

If we look at this data from GitHub which indicates that Microsoft has 1300 contributors to OSS and Google 900. Compared to the number of engineers at Microsoft (around 60000 according to this page) and Google (37% according to these numbers in 2014 which would mean 30000 based on the current number of employees), this would mean 2% and 3% knowing that of course we don't know much about the full time nature of these contributors. We could easily estimate less than 1% for these top companies, and this would probably be much less for the rest of the tech industry.

If we consider that maybe in the best scenario, 1% of the R&D is being directed towards Open Source contributions, that would mean 10 Billions $. We could also estimate around 0,1%, which would be another $1B Open Source R&D.

  • Volunteer Time

Now the good news for Free and Open Source code is that there is the volunteer time. A study from 2014 based on hours of commit indicates that 50% of commits would be during work time versus non work time. It is not easy to validate this data, and amounts of commits, do not necessarily mean quality code. Freelancers might contribute on Open Source code outside of their paid missions, during the day. Commits might be done at the end of the day with work from the whole day. Now it's undeniable that there is non-paid Open Source contributions and according to this study it is significant. If somebody has another study of the amount of "non-paid" code, this would be very interesting. 

However, if you consider these developers have a job during the day, you can consider that their "proprietary job" is sponsoring their "evening" open source contribution.

When taking this together, if we are taking the lower estimation, it would be $2B which means the truck in the image, and in the best case $10B which would be one level of the whole tower. If we add the volunteer time on top, this could mean 2 trucks or 2 levels. I would estimate that Open Source R&D funding it's more like the truck in the image, and it's currently coming about half from Open Source companies, and half from the rest of the industry contributing. 

What is sure right now, is that not only this is very small compared to the massive amount of energy directed towards proprietary software, but the "crowdfunding" is even more microscopic compared to the "corporate" funding. 

This is why I'm worried, because looking at the evolution, it seems that we risk having less "professional open source" contributions, if VC backed companies are using non-open source licences or backing off open source, or having the "corporate" contribution become highly dependent on a consolidating industry controlling all our tech lives. The biggest risk I see, is less "professional" projects to build "end-user" applications which require a lot of fine tuning to be competitive with the cloud solutions. I don't see the cloud and internet applications provider investing in anything else than infrastructure and libraries and keeping the application and the data for themselves.

The risk, and I believe it has already started, is while we had many open source applications working on our desktop or for enterprises, while we have all the infrastructure being open source, the applications on the cloud will be controlled by proprietary providers who won't share them. We might have a lot of Open Source in the backend, but the key service is itself a proprietary service that we cannot control.

The role of developing Free and Open Source software in the sense of the FSFE.org, will remain to Open Source companies and to the vast majority of volunteers who work with almost no or little funding.

The Cloud is just another Sun

This leads me to the final talk of this FOSDEM article, The Cloud is just another Sun from Kyle Rankin from Purism (great stuff by the way). Check it out entirely because it shows a great parallel between the "Cloud Wars" and the "Unix Wars". I'm reprinting again a few slides (I hope he won't mind).

It talks to me because I do have a feeling of "déjà-vu" when looking at our the big cloud providers are dominating everything. And we all look at it thinking it's Open Source while the key aspects are being made highly proprietary. 

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What can we do?

Educate

The key question is indeed what we can do about it. We need indeed to educate again on vendor lock-in and particularly of cloud services. In Europe we already do it also because none of these big providers is actually European. As users we need to resist more the big cloud services and we need to advocate again for "Open Cloud" services, which means services that are fully Open Source.

Education is key.

Choose stronger Licences

I believe we need also stronger licences like the AGPL which pushes cloud services to contribute to the Open Source cloud services and does not allow the to fork them as proprietary softwares. I will not advocate for the SSPL licence which is pushing the limit to all the infrastructure. However a legitimate questions is how can the Open Source providers compete with Cloud providers that would contribute only marginally and sell the cloud services. As an Open Source company, the same question is showing up between those that invest in Open Source software versus those that just reuse them for profit without contributing.

However this is not an easy subject, as the stronger licence might also reduce your distribution and turn away some contributors. It is a difficult balance to find in the same way that the balance between free distribution and paying one is a difficult one.

At XWiki we have chosen to have paying modules in our app-store which are fully Open Source, but not available through install for free in the app store. If you want to use them for "free", you will need to build them yourself and run you own app-store.

Value Open Source, not the Zero price

We all confuse Open Source and Free. By doing this we push individuals or companies that try to find a balance towards "Open-Core". In the open hardware world, this is less a problem as people are used to pay for a physical object, but in the software world, we want all for free. By providing more cloud services that are "Open Cloud" we can also have a revenue stream for the cloud service and still keep the software open.

For CryptPad, this is what we are doing and many "privacy" oriented software providers are doing it this way, because it makes sense to show the code when you promise security. Now there will be a challenge to see how these services can interconnect or wether they will start competing with each other.

Finance what is not financed

We need to continue to find ways to financed what is currently not financed. We can advocate to the public funding (European for example) to finance as Open Source what is missing. This is happening with the NGI Funds for example, and us as individuals we can help more end-user projects emerge. I will make here a shameless plug for the OpenCollective of CryptPad.fr which needs your help to provide a privacy centric collaboration platform.

Kudos to the FOSDEM organizers

  • 788 talks
  • 408 hours of content
  • 600 speakers
  • 65 stands

I have to say I'm particularly impressed by the video system and the ability to validate the video of a talk and publish it in record time.