Is Obsidian a Fork of SiYuan?

I’m wondering what Obsidian’s relationship to another application, called SiYuan, might be (if there is any relation)? It appears to me that the two applications are incredibly similar beyond the commonalities of any note writing/management PKM sort of application (e.g. the interface layout, the settings, etc. look nearly identical). If it’s a fork, I’d be curious to know how the objectives of the two are different, I imagine over time the two applications would change more and thus, provide different expectations for users.

Both applications have quite a bit of the same functionality and work very similarly but they’re not at feature parity. For example, SiYuan has a few user-friendly features such as an elegant WYSIWYG interface (I’ve noticed that is on Obsidian’s long-term roadmap). SiYuan has a colour system for bookmarks, which I think serve a similar purpose to Obsidian’s star list. SiYuan also records, has graphs, templates, aliases, etc. and it supports various types of linking like Obsidian but it offers more of a visual sort of pop-window to help identify what you’re linking to. It also seems to support WebDav.

It looks like the business models are similar, though as far as I can tell SiYuan may not be offering the same variety of online services as Obsidian or maybe it just hasn’t advanced in that direction as much yet.

Aside from those things, I note that SiYuan was originally available under an open source licence (Mulan PSL2).

But back to my question and some reasons for wondering about this. If Obsidian is a fork of SiYuan, I’m very curious to know what the rationale would have been… what made the Obsidian developers want to take the direction they’re taking and how is that different from where SiYuan is going? I suppose one possibility could have to do with linguistic communities or business places? Although it was easy for me to install SiYuan with an English interface and help documentation, I note that it’s based in China and its site and user forum are Chinese, which unfortunately for me (with my language limitations) prevents me from asking anything on that forum. Maybe that’s the big difference? A focus on a different market and community?

Regardless, if at some point these were the same application, then I’m curious if they remain similar enough inside that things like SiYuan’s WYSIWYG editor could be incorporated into Obsidian?

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There is no relation between Obsidian an SiYuan.
SiYuan was born few months after Obsidian and is made by different developers in China.
As far as I know, SiYuan is also closed source. There are other differences, but I am not super familiar, so I suggest you ask in their forum for clarifications.

Again, there is no relationship and there won’t be any incorporation or exporting of features.

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Obsidian is not a fork of anything else. We wrote and own the entirety of the source code of Obsidian, with the exception of all third-party libraries such as Electron, Mermaid, MathJax, and CodeMirror.

SiYuan’s authors started working on their app in August 2020 after hearing about Obsidian’s success. SiYuan is close sourced by the way. The authors turned their previously semi-abandoned open-sourced project called “LianDi”, renamed it to SiYuan, and close-sourced it when it was released. They exclusively target Chinese audiences (their website requires a chinese phone number to register).

I’ve had the chance to have a few discussions with the author of SiYuan, and the reason why SiYuan and Obsidian are so similar is because they have recruited most of their users from a large Obsidian QQ discussion group (Chinese group-chat platform). It is only natural that these users demand features currently in Obsidian, thus pushing SiYuan to replicate similar features in their app.


The architecture of SiYuan, as I’ve learned from chatting with the author, is based on a Go-lang “kernel” process, which is responsible for parsing the markdown files, and indexing them. The electron app communicates with the “kernel” process via WebSocket and is used solely for input and display, using an HTML-based WYSIWYG editor they started working on a few years ago for their forum software.

This is quite different from Obsidian’s architecture, which is pretty easy to understand if you’ve participated in plugin creation. The entire app runs inside an electron window, and there is no inter-process communications. In fact, you can infer much of the architecture from our public plugin API.


Ok, I looked, and tried my best to be open. I prefer Obsidian’s look and feel. It could be because I use VSCode on a reg basis at work. It could be that Obsidian just has a cleaner interface. I get the feeling that Obsidian’s WYSIWYG editor will look and feel a lot like the forum editor. I hopped over to their bug list; it’s huge. Reminds me of this guy I used to work with. He was so preoccupied with adding features to his project that he never fixed any bugs. I hope it’s not the same guy; bless his heart.

Disclaimer: I mean no harm, just giving my honest opinion, and tossing a little humor in for fun. :laughing:


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Maybe you already know it. I’ve just discovered SiYuan( Github) and it has some interesting and inspiring features:

  • It is based on Content Blocks. You can assign metadata to each content block!
  • it doesn’t have Edit mode and preview mode but it features WYSIWYG editor like Typora
  • it offers E2EE sync
  • SQL query embed (kernel of the program written in Go)
  • Docker deployment
  • mobile app
  • it has recently become fully open source (完整开源界面和内核 · Issue #5013 · siyuan-note/siyuan · GitHub)

It is very promising and I hope it will inspire Obisidian as well.
I hope that everyone will find the best application for knowledge management.

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