Open Sourcing of Obsidian

No code audit = no privacy = no sale.

Canceling support. Wish I hadn’t opened this box. Ignorance was bliss. On the road for an ethical toolset.

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@cmhorn You could deactivate auto-update, install a tool like Charles or Little Snitch and see what information gets send out. You’ll probably notice non. If it doesn’t send out information what’s your worry about privacy? You have your static files stored on your hard drive where would they go?

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An alternative that work on Linux: Safing Portmaster

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I am afraid your comment shows a fundamental misunderstanding of open-source. Open-sourcing does not prevent people from profiting or mandating proprietary licensing. Open-source software could still require a license to be purchased and legal action could be enforced if used or copied without authorization. This would still allow people to review the codebase and make suggestions (although not alterations).

You are talking about is Free and Open Souce (FOSS) which mandates that the platform is free for use. FOSS software is still able to generate profit through donations, proprietary feature unlocks (i.e. obsidian sync), and service/support contracts. This would allow review and alteration of the main platform; whilst guaranteeing codebase maintenance for as long as someone would like to do so.

I would also like to point out that it seems a lot of people came here from roam-research after they installed a monthly fee. Not to say the devs of obsidian will; however, there is nothing legally preventing them from doing so. Food for thought…

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yeah I’m surprised to learn that Obsidian is not open source. I guess I naively assumed ’ for you, forever’ meant you ascribe to the ethos of open source. I guess having my files as markdown locally and the community that has formed around this program is enough to garner confidence that I can rely on this note taking system. But I guess I’ll start being on the lookout for an opensource alternative to move my vaults of md to :slight_smile:

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Maybe I’m missing something here. But all these calls for open sourcing Obsidian are a bit confusing. If the goal is to review its primary source code, isn’t that accomplished by unpacking the ASAR files (app.asar and obsidian.asar)?

Similar idea (modifying code/repackaging):

As for the trust many seem to place on open source, one of the fastest growing malware areas is corrupting open-source dependencies. Like others have noted, the only secure code is the code you write yourself.

Others have repeatedly pointed out that Obsidian only phones home for things like updates or browsing themes and plugins; all of which can be turned off. I suppose the only thing disappointing about Obsidian is that it doesn’t make my morning coffee. But considering how quickly updates are made, that feature may be coming. :yum:

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I could do that, or I could just go with a tool that supports privacy from the ground up…

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If Obsidian not being open source is a deal-breaker for you, I’d recommend checking out Notabase, which is free to use and completely open source. It’s still early in development, and it has some different values from Obsidian, prioritizing instead simplicity + ease-of-use (it has a WYSIWYG editor and built-in cloud syncing). It also has some interesting features such as Andy Matuschak’s page stacking.

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Having read through this thread and spent a fair bit of time stalking the Discord server, I think what makes Obsidian stand out is just how kind and approachable and friendly the devs are. For that reason, I don’t have any security hesitations about Obsidian, and I don’t think this should be the main argument for open sourcing it.

What makes Obsidian unique compared to some of the other alternatives suggested here is the community, I think. There is such a lively and welcoming community, and the plugin ecosystem is super healthy and useful.

I completely understand why open sourcing Obsidian as is is not something that the devs want to do, but on the other hand I think a lot of people are putting time and effort into the community, which to me is Obsidians biggest selling point. For that reason, I think it would be really reassuring if there was some sort of commitment to switch to a more open model in the long term.

I think a great first (and possibly last, if full open sourcing is not something that the devs want) step would be to try to open source one of the “core plugins”, sort of like a test to see whether the community might actually be able help the core of Obsidian. The devs or well-respected members of the community could head the project, ensuring that the code is of high quality and well-integrated into the Obsidian UX. I would suggest the ‘Graph View’ core plugin to be open sourced, since the community seems particularly fond of it and there are lots of possibilities for improvements being suggested, which the devs might not have the time to look into as they are spending their time improving other Obsidian Core features like mobile and sync.

This turned out to be longer than I wanted it to be. TL;DR:

  • Open source a small part of Obsidian (suggestion: Graph View) to test whether the community could be helpful in developing some of the Obsidian native experience.
  • Start small such that the ‘administrative’ burden of managing the open sourced part is not big.
  • Reevaluate with the community on whether this was a success in a few months time.

Advantages:

  • Demonstrates that Obsidian takes seriously the thought of opening up further
  • (Ideally) Obsidian would be able to use community to aid in development in a time-efficient manner
  • Helps sustain the healthy community of Obsidian, which is arguably its biggest selling point
  • Low risk, both time and intellectual property wise.
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The devs have stated open sourcing isn’t something they have planned. Can we just respect that and lock this thread? Nothing said from the peanut gallery here is frankly productive.

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Thank you, @pmbauer.
The armchair CEOs and developers of this thread are welcome to join the numerous projects that have been mentioned time and time again here and ponder Obsidian’s sustainability, which doesn’t seem to have been hampered too badly by the visibly intolerable and unethical state of not open sourcing the work they have, damn it, all intellectual rights on, and no moral obligation whatsoever to share if they don’t see it fit. Especially after taking so much care to make the app entirely free, fully featured, not requiring any subscription nor locking you in!

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We haven’t locked/deleted this thread for two purposes:

  1. When somebody asks about open sourcing, we point them here to read the arguments.
  2. It gives people a place to voice their opinions (or just vent their frustration.)
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If you’re not familiar with it, I highly recommend checking out the Juggl plugin, which makes some really incredible alterations to the graph view that are beneficial for users who appreciate the add-ons :slight_smile:

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Here’s my one concern about and request for an Open Source plan. Since Obsidian is only really 2 main developers what I would like to see is some sort of “estate plan” for the software in the unlikely event that the developers dissappear for some reason.

Accidents can happen to anyone and what if there was a car crash or something?

Is there any plan that the code can be moved to new developers or placed open source so that the loss of the key people won’t also kill the program?

I’ve seen projects where great minds made it all work but they died or left the company and the projects languished because there was no plan for how to open it up for others to take over and continue the work. I’d really hate for that to happen to Obsidian.

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I agree with that, but you said, obsidian is 0 cost for non-commercial users, why don’t continue with that? just liberating as libre software the personal version, you can continue selling licences for commercial users, I’m use Obsidian for personal use, but I’d be so so so happy paying for obsidian as libre software… Even there is the anticapitalist licence which doesn’t allow sell or use the software for making money, is not a libre license but it is better than closed source. I am not talking about politic or communism with that license, that license could be the better opcion, anyway, liberating the personal use shouldn’t affect you for bad.

Other option could be the the CC BY-NC-SA 4.0, that license allow sharing code, doesn’t allow use the material (in this case the software) for commercial purposes, and allows create derivatives and distribute the derivatives but with the same license than the original, that means the code will be ever open under BY-NC-SA 4.0 and nobody will be able to use it for commercial purposes, except the creators, because they are the proprietaries of that code and like proprietaries can change the license, and distribute it with multiple licenses.

You shouldn’t to choose be libre or proprietary software, you can be both, and that’s my suggestion, please, liberate just the personal version, and, let at it actually is the commercial version, you even can get money.

pd. I just created this account for this thread, I really hope to see obsidian as libre software, I’ll keep pending this thread, and thanks.
pd. 2: I just posted again because I realised I cannot edit the posts and my previous post had a mistake.

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Update: I realised that this forum is running under Discourse.org’s software, I know not if it is running under a self-hosted or a paid plan, but in two cases the forum is an expense, expense in hosting or expense in a Discourse’s membership, but fortunately Discourse offers free hosting and free service for open source (and libre) software, that means that you can save some money being libre software, with a plus, support from the libre/open source community, I’m really sure that if you open the code, the app’s success will be so so so so bigger

The reality is, if your check the facts, you’ll realise is more convenient, better for us like community, better for you like developers, and better for economy saving some money.

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You can make all the arguments you like but at the end of the day it is down to the developers. As a programmer I wouldn’t even entertain the idea of open sourcing the core at this stage, if ever. What I would be doing in the background is to establish a business model that ensures the product can continue even I were not able to participate in it any longer for whatever reason. Open sourcing is likely to lead to competing and contradictory forks that ultimately will be bad for end users and potentially result in acrimony, like many other OS projects, and self-destruction.

Open-sourcing has it’s uses but I do not subscribe the belief that everything should be open sourced.

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True. In general, developers can make source code available but provide paid binaries. Or provide a way to activate features/plugins from within the app by purchases. Access to sync servers ditto.

All this while keeping the app OSS.

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My suggestion: rabid advocates of open sourcing software should develop competing software themselves and then give it away.

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Alternatives such as source-available licensing and copyfair licensing have not really been very well discussed in this thread (although @majdal mentioned something related through a code embargo license). These other options (similar but not identical to free and open source techniques) might very well satisfy everyone’s wishes. I’d like to point out a few of these options and hope that the Obsidian developers that have stated their concerns previously (e.g. @licat) give them their consideration.

Main issues that seem to be the most difficult to resolve from the developer side (as far as I’ve been able to discern from this thread) include 1. commercial competition (e.g. from a copied code base) and 2. the existing business model’s restriction on the type of user that is required to pay.

  1. The Commons Clause takes an interesting approach to addressing the software commercialization issue. It’s a clause that you put at the beginning of some other open source license (e.g. MIT), which can prohibit others from selling that software. Its author explains “The Commons Clause was not designed to restrict code sharing or development, but preserves the rights of developers to benefit from commercial use of their work.”

That Commons Clause comes from Heather Meeker, an accomplished individual with recognized legal expertise in IP and software licensing.

  1. The Platform Commons License seems to focus more on the type of user. It permits people to access/use the software (platform) source code as individuals, as cooperatives, etc. but a commercial corporation would not have that access. As a “source-available” licence (similar but not quite identical to open source) it enables access, sharing, and the possibility of contribution to the source code, stating that it will:
  • Encourage fair sharing, for outreach and impact.
  • Encourage fair commercialization, to sustain continuous development.

This license, although it seems like it could apply to individual software applications, has a lot to address in terms of online platform services. That includes a sensitivity to user-data freedom and ownership, which is very much inline with principles that Obsidian already promotes about its own approach.

I’d mention that another license with some similar objectives to that Platform Commons one is the Cooperative Software License but it appears, in my brief research, to perhaps not have had quite so much activity.

Having raised those two points, I think there is a fair variety of directions to ensure that Obsidian’s developers might be able to use one or both of those license approaches to maintain the existing business model (and continuing commercial success), while also supporting the amazing community that continues to grow around Obsidian. Even if these weren’t perfectly able to address the issue, they show approaches that could be adapted.

Community support would finally, I’d argue, take the shape of fully, safely respecting peoples’ rights to use our own computers with applications in our own control. Especially as it concerns the highly personal work and processes with this tool. This could also encourage greater participation and innovation (beyond just plugins) as well as better ensure the longevity of the tool.

I can imagine the possibility that adopting one or both of those types of approaches could lead to business model alterations, possibly simplifying things. I don’t mean to recommend that, just note that it might be desirable (or not).

Lastly, I would like to repeat as I have in previous messages (and others have made similar statements), that I’d love to pay for Obsidian but won’t unless I know that my rights as a user become fully respected (which normally happens under free and open source software principles). I offer this information/alternative suggestion as a constructive way to accomplish that. Thanks for considering these suggestions.

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