Here at Penguicon, we like to stay connected with our friends in the Open Source community. To that end, we’ve asked the creators of Nextcloud to answer a few questions.
Penguicon: Can you give us a little background on how Nextcloud got its start?
Nextcloud: The project was started by Frank Karlitschek already in 2010, coming from the KDE community. KDE develops Linux desktop software, and a need arose for a way to keep control over data of users in the age of Dropbox and Google Drive. After all, if your data is ‘in the cloud’, your ‘desktop freedom’ doesn’t mean that much.
Penguicon: How has Nextcloud evolved since its beginning?
Nextcloud: It’s been 14 years since then, so a lot has changed, but this focus on giving people control over their data is still core to what we do. Our mission has evolved and grown, however. Just syncing files is no longer enough. People need to work together – comment on files, have a video call, share documents by mail, and attach them to tasks or calendar items. From day 1, Nextcloud supported apps, adding functionality. This allowed you to ‘hook’ into various storage technologies (you could access and share your FTP or Windows Network Drive through it), but community-developed email and calendar apps soon became popular. Now, Nextcloud has evolved from file sync and share into a full collaboration platform, extensible by over 250 apps. From video calls to surveys to password managers, it’s all there!
Penguicon: What makes Nextcloud unique in the open-source world?
Nextcloud: What doesn’t? But in all seriousness, I can think of a few things that contributed to our success.
First, on a product level, we have a strong focus on design, ease of use, and having a low barrier to entry. Nextcloud is as easy to run as we can make it, which is a big part of why there are almost half a million servers out there, with tens of millions of users between them.
Second, I think we achieved a good community/business balance. Nothing is ever perfect, but we are very much aware that we need to be good custodians and citizens of the community while we make our business grow so we can continue to improve Nextcloud.
Third, connected to second, we made this business work and scale. We’re building an end-user-facing product, we do not offer infrastructure or hosting, we only write software. And we made it work, with some 80% growth in bookings last year, without any venture capital. That is pretty special!
I think all these things together have a lot to do with focus and ambition. We are really ambitious: our goal is to offer people and organizations a credible alternative to the Big Tech data-hungry firms like Microsoft and Google. And an alternative isn’t credible if 25 volunteers do it in their free time. A government or big internet provider can’t rely on such a product. So we are working incredibly hard to become a serious, big industry player while staying true to our core principles.
Penguicon: Have the advent of SaaS business models changed the philosophy or roadmap behind Nextcloud?
Nextcloud: SaaS inspired us in 2010 – as often, SaaS means you have no control over the data. In a way, we were the anti-SaaS and wanted to offer a real alternative to big tech firms like Microsoft and Google. But of course, SaaS has many advantages and benefits, too, when used responsibly. So things have changed to some degree, and we work with many partners to offer Nextcloud as a SaaS product. But we ourselves still do not host. We write software!
Penguicon: What do you think Nextcloud’s legacy in the open-source community will be?
Nextcloud: I think we’re an example of how you can build a company on real open source in a sustainable, organic way, working transparently with the community. And still, achieve a ton of growth and really make it work.
Nextcloud Hub is the leading open-source, on-premises content collaboration platform with a strong focus on data protection. Tens of thousands of organizations deploy it to stay in control of their sensitive content in compliance with privacy regulations like GDPR and HIPAA.
Nextcloud presents a unified, comprehensive platform addressing collaboration needs through document sharing, real-time editing, video conferencing, calendaring, mail, and other capabilities. This singular approach across mobile, web, and desktop interfaces provides a superior user experience and increased productivity.
It is designed with an open, modular architecture that enables organizations to optimize their content collaboration both within and outside their organization. More information on nextcloud.com.
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