OwnCloud founder sells openDesktop.org

frank karlitschek owncloud

ownCloud co-founder Frank Karlitschek.

Credit: Swapnil Bhartiya

The buyer is a very well known, but media shy, supporter of open source projects.

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As those in the Linux and open source communities know well, long before Apple's App Store appeared on the scene, openDesktop.org offered applications, tools, wallpapers, sounds, icons, themes and other artwork and stuff for the Linux desktop.

openDesktop.org was started ownCloud founder Frank Karlitschek, and yesterday I learned that he has sold the network of sites. I interviewed Frank over Google Hangouts about the sale of openDesktop.org; following is an edited version of that interview.

Can you tell us a bit about openDesktop.org?

Frank Karlitschek: I started the first website of the network, KDE-Look.org, 15 years ago. The idea was to have a platform where KDE users could find and exchange artwork. Building a social network before the term social network existed.

Over the years the websites and the company that owns it grew significantly with the help of a great team and two VCs. A lot more websites for KDE, GNOME, XFCE, VLC, Qt, Ubuntu, SUSE were launched and the focus shifted away pure artwork towards applications, a knowledge base and other more communication oriented features. The idea was and is to have a social network for collaboration between open source developers and users.

The websites are one of the biggest and most important resources in the open source space with over 60 million pageviews a month, 350,000 registered users and over 150,000 uploads of apps and artwork. A lot of open collaboration around artwork and applications happens there, which is important for a lot of open source projects.

What’s the differenrnce between FreeDesktop and openDesktop.org?

They are actually completely different. FreeDesktop.org was founded to enable better collaboration between the different open source desktop environments. openDesktop.org is a more end user and third party app focused website network with a strong community and social network angle.

How is openDesktop.org connected with the KDE community?

I was deeply involved in KDE 15 years ago. So the focus was on the KDE community at the beginning. But very quickly I also launched GNOME-Look.org to do something similar for the GNOME community and also enable better collaboration between this two big desktop environments. Over the time more and more communities and projects approached me and I launched websites for them. All on the same platform with the same multi-tenant system. At the moment there are over 30 websites for different projects.

What role has openDesktop.org played in the promotion of open source?  

I think openDesktop.org is a very good starting place for users who want to see what applications are available for Desktop Linux. openDesktop.org also provides features like rating, comments, knowledgebase, groups, messages and all kinds of other social features. So it is a great interface between the developer community and the users of the software. The number one goal was always the promotion of Desktop Linux.

Who is buying openDesktop.org?

The company who bought it is Blue Systems. Blue Systems is a long time supporter of open source and specifically the KDE community. I was looking for a new owner for a while now and got interesting offers from the publishing and advertising industry. But I decided to go with Blue Systems because they are an open source minded company and I trust them to do the right thing with the websites, community and source code.

Why did you decide to sell the property?

In the last 4 years the network of sites didn’t get the love and attention they deserved, both considering how important they are for the open source ecosystem and the potential they have. The reason was, of course, that I was very busy with ownCloud. So I’m super happy that Blue Systems takes over from now on.

What’s the future of openDesktop.org?

That is a question that the new owner has to answer. I realize millions of users on these websites might be wondering what this means for them. Blue Systems will keep on running and maintaining all the websites so that users shouldn’t notice any change. I know they've got plans to improve things.

I’m very happy that I found a great agreement with Blue Systems and I think it is a great solution.

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