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Goodbye ownCloud, Hello Nextcloud! The Aftermath of Disrupting Open Source Cloud Storage

If you are vaguely familiar with ownCloud, you may have noticed quite a bit of ruckus on the tech blogs back in July when their US business entity was essentially gutted.  The Chief Executive Office and cofounder, Frank Karlitschek, announced he was resigning.  Within a few weeks, most of the core development team followed suit.  This left many long time ownCloud users, such as myself, completely puzzled.  Here we are a few months later and a few questions still linger, but many have been answered.  First, let’s briefly review what the ownCloud platform provides and why this matters.

 

What is ownCloud?

 

ownCloud is an Open Source cloud platform that closely mimics the functionality of Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, and all the other big guys.  There is an ownCloud server, that runs on a simple LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP), and then there’s a client(s).  The client is an application that can be installed on Linux, Windows, OSX, iOS, Android and pretty much everything else.  Each user has a folder full of files that magically stays synchronized on the server and each device the client has the software installed on.  Then users can share files and folders with other users, collaborate, and the list goes on.  Functionality has expanded quite a bit over the years, in way of apps.  Apps have integrated mail, calendar, contacts, music, photo galleries and so much more into the ownCloud ecosystem.  The main difference between ownCloud, and the big guys mentioned earlier, is it’s completely free.  Well, it started out free.  Needless to say, with thousands of developers contributing code, and tens of thousands of installations later, it grew.  So, when did things go sour?

 

What happened?

 

A couple years ago, things started to change.  Instead of the community being the driving force behind development decisions and what direction the project was heading (the core principle of Open Source software) venture capital had another idea.  Less attention was being given to community submitted bugs and feature requests, and a divide was being formed between the community and ownCloud’s business entities, ownCloud GmbH (Germany) and ownCloud Inc (USA).  The business makes money by charging for support, but that started to expand into other areas.  The list of complaints from the Open Source community is pretty long, so I’ll give you the headlines.

 

  • ownCloud developers were ignoring feedback and hoarding functionality for their paying “enterprise” customers.
  • User interfaces were mutilated for many of the core services, such as the contacts and calendar apps.
  • Any attempt to give construction criticism was taken as a personal attack and/or just ignored.
  • Major defects in the code were being released, such as broken updater utilities.
  • ownCloud GmbH/Inc was not sharing future road maps and maintained a veil of secrecy.
  • Lack of real innovation and development of the platform as a whole.

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How-To Install ownCloud 9 / 9.1 / 9.x on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS for the ULTIMATE, Private, Dropbox Clone

Introduction

 

Let’s face it, since the advent of Dropbox, Box, Google Drive and the bazillion other cloud-based file synchronization platforms that have came into existence over the past decade, it’s almost a necessity. For the road warrior, using multiple devices, or even the traditional white-collar worker, having access to all of your files no matter what device you’re using is extremely convenient and adds an enormous productivity boost to our lives. One of my biggest concerns with all of the third-party services, however, is privacy and security. Allowing another entity to store my sensitive data, and trusting they will keep in secure, is pretty scary. Thankfully, there are many options to roll-your-own cloud file synchronization and it really doesn’t take much horsepower on the server side. With a low cost VPS (virtual private server), retired computer at home, or even a $25 RaspberryPi, you can easily build your own Dropbox clone that will put you in control of your own data. Today, I’ll walk you through setting up ownCloud 9.1 on Cannocial’s Ubuntu 16.04 LTS. I will be setting up my cloud on a virtual machine running on VMware ESXi, but the process is very similar no matter what hardware platform you choose. This step-by-step guide assumes you have a plain, unmodified, minimum installation of Ubuntu Server 16.04 LTS, with only SSH access. If you don’t have SSH running, or don’t want to enable it, console access will work just fine. So, lets get started!

 

Installing Prerequisites (Apache/MySQL/PHP)

 

Go ahead and login to your freshly installed Ubuntu 16.04 server.  Be sure to login with a username that has sudoer privileges.  This can be the username you selected during installation or specified when you provisioned your VPS.  Let’s make sure everything is up-to-date before going any further. We will use Aptitude to do so.

 

#  sudo apt-get update

#  sudo apt-get upgrade -y

 

Now we can jump in to the nitty gritty.  There are a few standard prerequisites needed for ownCloud to run.  Most people refer to this as the LAMP stack (short for Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP).

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