No one cares about open-source, until …

"Migrating your data" Skiff website telling users how to get their data out of their products that will shut down in 6 months.

If you follow privacy news, you have probably heard that Skiff, an end-to-end encrypted productivity suite, announced that it has been acquired by Notion. Its suite of products (email, documents, contacts, calendar) will “sunset” in 6 months time. Some other elements such as community Discord chat and open-source code repositories were unceremoniously shut down with immediate effect.

There have been plenty of posts and takes already, so we will not elaborate too much further. But we also could not resist chiming in since Skiff was compared with CryptPad in the past. While this is a really unfortunate moment for Skiff users, it is by no means a surprise.

We’re extremely excited to accelerate our mission by joining forces with Notion’s world-class team.
Skiff website

The mission here was to maximise returns for the Venture Capital investors that gave Skiff $14.2 million. The Skiff founders have “accelerated” and the mission is complete, we wish them well for it.

For the users however, there will not be much of value left behind. For obvious privacy reasons their data will not be handed to Notion automatically so they are left with a 6 months to move their data elsewhere by themselves.

Although talking about open-source is sure to get you yawns at dinner parties, this episode really illustrates that it can mean anything from empty gesturing to an actual commons that people can use and build upon. While Skiff was presented as open-source, the back-end never was so it was not possible to self-host it. In addition, the type of license used (CC-BY-NC-SA) is meant for artworks and more geared towards showing the code than making the service operable by others.

In comparison to Skiff, CryptPad is missing a few features such as email or NFT storage. However it is also not tied to any investor's returns, and importantly is fully open-source. If the team stopped working on it tomorrow, the hundreds of third-party CryptPad instances would continue running freely and people would continue to have the right to improve and maintain the code.

Whether it's a technical outage or an acquisition like Skiff's, we don't think it's good karma to prey on the disgruntled users of our competition. We're also aware that CryptPad is not ready to serve all of the same use-cases as Skiff. We wish people well in finding new solutions that work for them. We also would like for this moment to encourage everyone to reflect on the ownership structure of the tools that they rely on, and perhaps to favour building some genuine commons rather than products that can simply vanish because of conflicting interests.