​OwnCloud founder resigns from his cloud company

In a public letter, ownCloud CTO and founder Frank Karlitschek cites the less-than-ideal relationship between the company and user community. He plans to stay on as project lead.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Frank Karlitschek, ownCloud's founder and CTO, has resigned from his company. OwnCloud is a popular do-it-yourself infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud.

ownCloud founder Frank Karlitschek

Frank Karlitschek, the founder of the popular do-it-yourself ownCloud infrastructure-as-a-service cloud, has resigned from his company. He will be staying on, for now, as the community lead.


In a public letter, Karlitschek first explained that he "founded the ownCloud project a little over 6 years ago with the goal to enable home users, companies, universities and big enterprises to host their own cloud services and files. In a world with growing threats around security, surveillance and espionage, this idea is becoming more important every day."

OwnCloud has been successful in achieving that goal. Both individual users and companies that don't trust their information with such personal storage services as Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, and Google Drive have turned to ownCloud.

Four and a half years ago, Karlitschek co-founded ownCloud Inc, This company supports enterprise use of ownCloud.

While Karlitschek is happy with the community project -- "with contributions by almost 1000 people over the last 6 years, over 80 every single month" -- he was not as happy with the relationship between the company and the community. Karlitschek wrote, "the company could have done a better job recognizing the achievements of the community. It sometimes has a tendency to control the work too closely and discuss things internally. But overall, the balance was not too bad."

That said, there were business and ethical matters that bothered Karlitschek. These include: "Who owns the community? Who owns ownCloud itself? And what matters more, short term money or long term responsibility and growth? Is ownCloud just another company or do we also have to answer to the hundreds of volunteers who contribute and make it what it is today? These questions brought me to the very tough decisions: I have decided to leave my own company today."

That said, Karlitschek also stated he will remain "the ownCloud project lead until the community says otherwise."

Some people close to the community have speculated that Karlitschek might fork the ownCloud. Karlitschek told me he can't comment on such questions.

Markus Rex, ownCloud's CEO, shared the company's official statement:

Frank Karlitschek has stepped down as CTO of ownCloud for personal reasons. We are grateful for all of Frank's contributions to the company and ecosystem, and wish him the best in future endeavors. We are fortunate to have a skilled and experienced team at ownCloud, and we are confident that the company will build on its track record of growth as we continue to deliver the world's most popular open-source enterprise file access software to customers across the globe.
Rex added: "Frank and Holger [Dyroff] and I started the company 4.5 years ago, and went through many ups and downs as any startup does. I am going to miss a dear friend and compatriot. On the other hand, after so many years we have built solid structures how to do business, how to serve our customers and also how to work with the community. This work on the community has paid off very well, according to Open HUB we had~350 active contributors lately. So the future of the community is looking about the same as yesterday - quite good. And the work for the company has paid off equally well, so we are looking optimistic into the future.

Looking ahead I think ownCloud the community and the company should both continue to do well. OwnCloud, the program, is quite good. The need for an easy-to-setup-and-run private cloud remains as strong as ever and ownCloud fills those requirements nicely.

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