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Quitting open source

Posted on 1/4/10 by Felix Geisendörfer

Update: Yes, this of course was an April fools joke : )

This is a decision that has not been easy for us. Over the years, Tim and I build our reputation and company on the basis of open source. For a long time we worked on CakePHP, and more recently I became very involved with node.js.

Generally, open source has been very good to us. We learned a lot about programming, collaborated with great people and, thanks to our clients, made payroll consistently.

But sometimes, even if things are good, you have to evaluate if they are aligned with your true goals. And today, we finally decided they are not. Our goals and the nature of open source are in fundamental conflict.

What changed? Well, when we initially started debuggable, our goal was to build commercial web applications and make a living from that. But it turns out, that is actually really hard.

37signals may wash your head about getting real until it comes off, but the truth is:

You will not build a product like basecamp with a limit of 10h / week. And you certainly will not, let me stress that, develop an open source technology like Ruby on Rails along the way, which will then help you promote your product(s). 37signals either got insanely lucky, or they are glorifying their story after the fact. It is probably both.

This leads back to our decision. We have concluded, that in order to reach our goals for 2010, we need more time. It is not really possible to cut on client work, since we've got bills to pay. So instead, we will drastically cut on our open source involvement.

Beginning today, we will only work on open source, if we actually really need a critical bug fixed, and the maintainer of the project refuses to fix it for us. We will only send those bug fixes upstream, if the patches are big enough so it would be more difficult for us to maintain them privately.

We estimate that this will free us 20 hours / week. Those hours, for now, will be used to finally get out of the testing phase. At the same time, we are evaluating a more radical technology change. We recently developed our first native iPhone application for a client, and it is a truly great plattform. Also the iPad seems like a great opportunity we shouldn't miss. So I wouldn't be surprised if Tim and I would be moving to the App Store ecosystem at some point.

So fare well, open source community. We are sorry we can longer be a part. Our website will be updated to reflect our new philosophy by tomorrow.

-- Felix & Tim


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Ceeram  said on Apr 01, 2010:

Thank you for all the hard work you have done, and goodluck with the business.

Neil Crookes said on Apr 01, 2010:

Happy april fools day

Philip  said on Apr 01, 2010:

What date is it?

Ivan said on Apr 01, 2010:

April 1st :-)

Kevin van Zonneveld said on Apr 01, 2010:

So you'll probably cancel your talk at JSConf April 18th as well right?
Too bad..

Sonic  said on Apr 01, 2010:

If this is not an April fools day prank then you will be sorely missed guys, (however I really hope it is). Meeting you and seeing your abilities & contributions showed me just how much of a difference a single person can make. You inspired me to want to give more.
I wish you the best of luck,


Jose Diaz-Gonzalez said on Apr 01, 2010:

Good Riddance to bad rubbish :P

Jeff Loiselle  said on Apr 01, 2010:

You infuriate me. I hate you.

Steve said on Apr 01, 2010:

Obvious April fools joke is obvious

Andrew said on Apr 01, 2010:

Haha good luck, OS will keep on calling you back ;)

April fools is almost over in my neck of the woods as well.

Felix Geisendörfer said on Apr 01, 2010:

Yes, this was our April fools : ). Live without open source would really suck!

Sonic  said on Apr 01, 2010:

You guys.....

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