The humble open source project that started in Germany has grew tremendously in the last few years. Yesterday, ownCloud announced that they estimate the number of users has exceeded the 8 million mark. In addition, the company achieved 100% year-over-year growth in 2015 and is on track to double these numbers again in 2016.
When I asked ownCloud community manager Jos Poortvliet about the basis of the user count, he told me that, unlike Android, iOS or Windows, there is no tracking mechanism built into ownCloud, but there are other ways to estimate the user base. There are many known installations and then there are those users who regularly update their ownCloud systems. Those are the users they know about; there may actually be more.
When I asked for more details on who is using ownCloud, Poortvliet told me that while some of the big companies don’t want to be named, there are many more organizations that are willing to go public about it, including Bauhaus, Deutsche Bahn, CERN, Datto, DeLonghi, ETH Zurich, and Jefferson National Bank.
OwnCloud, the company, attributes its growth to many factors, including the Universal File Access feature that is core to ownCloud and allows customers to comply with changing regulations in the US and Europe, such as the end of Safe Harbor.
Poortvliet explained that ownCloud enables companies (customers) to restrict access to some part of their internal ownCloud to members residing in different countries based on many factors such as location.
When I asked him about the role the Safe Harbor ruling played in the company’s growth, ownCloud founder Frank Karlitschek said that “the interest in ownCloud has significantly accelerated in the past few months since the safe harbor ruling. I think a lot of users and companies understand that the location where their data is stored is very important from a legal point of view. The times where everyone trusts every public cloud provider is definitely over. So the safe harbor ruling contributed sign significantly to the fast growth and increased adoption.”
But Safe Harbor isn’t solely responsible for ownCloud’s growth. “Open Source is in the absolute core of ownCloud,” said Karlitschek. “The software is developed together with our open source community. The open source community plays an essential part in testing, documenting, packaging and translating ownCloud. Also most of the ownCloud installations are non enterprise open source installations. This is in the core of our business. ownCloud Inc. also has a lot of customers that buy a subscription because ownCloud is open source. So open source is in the core of our business and ownCloud Inc. wouldn’t exist without it.”