Roundcube reaches its crowdfunding goal

The crowdfunding campaigns shows that Open Source is not about free of cost software.

finish line
Credit: jayneandd/Flickr

Roundcube, Inc., makers of the free and open source webmail client by the same name, has surpassed its recent IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign goal to raise $80,000 to create Roundcube Next. As of this writing, there's still 39 hours left for the campaign and they have raised over $91,373.

The proceeds from the crowdfunding campaign were to primarily go towards hiring two developers who would work on refactoring the core to make it modern and prepare it for the future. The campaign's success will also encourage Kolab Systems, the project's main sponsor, to invest even more.

The campaign also brought many corporate players (including cPanel, Tucows, Fastmail, TransIP, bHosted, XS4ALL) to Roundcube’s advisory board, which will advise the developers during the refactoring phase. It’s a win-win situation for this open source project as it will get direct feedback from those corporate users.

Once the project reached its goal, I chatted with Georg Greve, CEO of Kolab Systems and founder of Free Software Foundation Europe. When I asked him what’s next for Roundcube Next, he said, “After a round of consultation and some decisions with the Advisors who came on board during the campaign the developers will begin building Roundcube Next from the ground up to these new technological requirements and standards. How far they will go will depend on the outcome of the funding campaign, really. The base architecture is now secured. Now we hope more people and companies will recognize the importance and potential and come on board in the final week to ensure we can go all the way.”

Beyond Roundcube Next

The success of the campaign goes beyond Roundcube; it sends the message to the open source world that good projects will have full backing by their users. I asked Greve how felt to reach the goal, as it was their first such campaign. He said, “It feels fantastic. In addition to all the individuals it's great to see in particular so many companies come together that had not been working together before. But let's not forget this is not over. The basic goal has been reached, yes. But that basically means the fundamental infrastructure rewrite, the added features are unlocked by stretch goals, and there is a lot we would like to get done as you can see from the campaign.”

In an earlier conversation, Aaron Seigo, one of the most notable Free Software developers who now works on Kolab, told me that the campaign is also about finding a way to engage the larger Roundcube user-base.

The success of the campaign was about something more than money; it was also about finding out whether there was a demand for this free software project. It was about discovering whether people, who use your software for business or personal user, are willing to support it. It was an attempt to bring these users together for a common cause. And these users have spoken not just with words, but also with their wallets.

And that’s inspiring!

Greve agrees that it inspire them to see people backing their project. He adds, “But then for me this has been less about helping, and more about bringing together a community that has not had that moment of inception. This is about moving forward, together, and building a more active, engaged community as much as it is about technology.”

The success will certainly give the Roundcube community the confidence it needed in its project. Having a community behind you is not enough if you don’t plan and execute your plan in a realistic manner. I think that’s where Seigo will come into the picture as he is also a successful blogger and communicator; he was the one who officially created the Indiegogo campaign.

Why is Roundcube so important?

Email itself is extremely important in the modern age, as the web is transforming slowly into a cloud-based walled garden. We need open standards, open source technologies so that we are not locked into proprietary technologies that threaten our privacy and create vendor locks.

Greve opines, ”Essentially Roundcube is the necessary technology and best choice to enable a diverse ecosystem of solutions and providers much like the Linux kernel has done on the operating system level. This is important to society because it allows to have a better solution than the monolithic silos have to offer -- but at your own terms.”

Like Bryan Lunduke of NetworkWorld, I am also planning to move fully to open systems like Kolab. And I see the success of this campaign as a very strong message going out to the world: Open Source users are not, contrary to misplaced belief, ‘don’t want to pay’ users. They are ready to back projects they trust.

So if you use any Open Source project that you love, go ahead and show them the money!

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