Open Sourcing of Obsidian

Lots of good ideas here !
I think it is absolutely possible to make it more open and it would be very beneficial.

I feel like the reason people don’t like the idea of making it open source is because of misconceptions which can be easily proven to be wrong.
Anyone who does some research can find that there are lots of examples of very good open source projects which are making a profit and are going very well. And also a lot of open source software is used for Obsidian development.

Plus, for each issue and concern we can think about → there are solutions

And we can already pick one of the many open source licenses which exists, there are people and projects which already solved the question.

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Logseq is so different from Obsidian. I used it for a few months alongside Obsidian and then dropped it… too buggy, heavy, and didn’t integrate well with my existing vault. People who like outliners better will like Logseq, but it’s not an “open-source obsidian”…


Feels relevant here (regarding the new Canvas feature: the file format is available under mit license)


I am a freelance in datascience and I give 1% of my revenue to open source projects. Obsidian would certainly benefit from my (modest) contribution if the project is open-source. Please continue to think about the advantages of open-sourcing.


Anyone who does some research can also find lots of examples of open-source projects that cost the maintainers time, energy, and money for no tangible benefit to them. Making software open-source does not come without costs, and it’s disingenuous for anyone in this thread to pretend otherwise.

Maintainers have to carry the burden of community management and governance on top of actually building the software. Hidden Figures: Roles and Pathways of Successful OSS Contributors is peer-reviewed research on the subject:

By conducting and analyzing 17 interviews with OSS contributors who are well known in the community, we provide empirical evidence of the existence and importance of community-centric roles (e.g advocate, license manager, community founder) in addition to the well-known project-centric ones (e.g maintainer, core member). However, the community-centric roles typically remain hidden, since these roles may not leave traces in software repositories typically analyzed by researchers.

Here’s more peer-reviewed academic research on the additional burdens put on open-source maintainers. From Stress and burnout in open source: toward finding, understanding, and mitigating unhealthy interactions:

Developers from open-source communities have reported high stress levels from frequent demands for features and bug fixes and from the sometimes aggressive tone of these demands. Toxic conversations may demotivate and burn out developers, creating challenges for sustaining open source.

Another detailed article describes the unsustainability of a lot of open source. From Can Open Source Sustain Itself without Losing Its Soul? :

“I don’t think the current model of open source is sustainable for the people working on it. It’s a model that relies on people giving more than they can for very little or nothing in return, and hoping that there will be someone to take over the mantle when the previous person burns out — and there usually is!”

There are many, many blog posts and research articles chronicling the challenges that open-source maintainers face. Making open-source software is not as simple as putting the code on Github, and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous.

Further reading:


Dear Developers,

You have explained why Obsidian is not open source, and the reasons are compelling. But I would appreciate it if you could reconsider the open source of Live Preview (WYSIWYG editor).

Unlike other components, WYSIWYG Markdown editors are tricky to develop. They require a lot of work, and often have annoying bugs. I guess maybe the development of such a component could take benefit from the active community of Obsidian. In the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt Obsidian to open source this part of the code separately.

Live Preview actually has quite a few problems. Many nested elements are not rendered correctly. For example:

You can find more at Topics tagged live-preview. Most of them haven’t been fixed for a long time, and I can’t wait any longer.

Since I don’t find any plans for the Live Preview on roadmap, you are focusing on something more important. Then open source communities may be a solution to this problem.

P.S. Perhaps you want to refactor rather than tinker with the current editor, then open source is not an appropriate solution. But please at least tell us more about your plans. Do you have plans to enhance the current Live Preview editor? Will the new Live Preview editor become like Typora, block-based, or will it remain line-based as it is now? And when?

Thanks a lot!


In order to understand any reasonable sized piece of software, you need more than just the code.

You need the known bugs - verified and reported with all that entails.

You need the architectural vision and how that is expected to be changed over the short and long term. You need to understand the complexities of the architecture you have versus what the vision was and is supposed to be later on. There’s never an exact alignment from what was planned and what was built.

You need people who do know the guts of the thing to manage commits and review. That’s a HUGE effort. I’ve seen comments from quite a few people in these roles on other larger open-source projects and it takes a LOT of their time. And they can get burnt out which is awful when you then lose a key player.

Open source projects are no better at finding serious security bugs (in 90%+ of the open source projects, there isn’t enough security expertise) than other models of development. There is more disclosure, but that only happens after you identify and that still takes expertise that most projects don’t have.

Opening up a small project with a few key developers leads to more time spent fighting religious wars about how things should be done. The larger the team, the more fights and wasted time. And in open source, if someone has the hammer and calls the ball… it can lead to a lot of disgruntlement from devs who are trying to help but who have gotten their head down in the weeds and that just are so certain of some design aspect that they just can’t let it go.

Silver and other key players have done as much as they have done and they have done it well. There’s no clear benefit to the product to open source and even little or no benefit to the customer base. Some folks would like X, Y or Z, but that’s a very individual want in most cases.

I would not want them to go open-source unless the business was ending and they were going to put the existing code and knowledge into a perpetual open-source repository that someone might want to take on.

Some of the best software I’ve ever used was written by 2-10 people.


Well, following up on all what you’ve posted here. I am very thankful for the bunch of ideas by smart people.

I want to add a few points. First of all a lot of the written concepts here are either wrong explained or supporting a wrong narrative that is being spread by CSSers or OSSers.

I am for more than 10 years in the IT-Industry. I am doing this all day in my private life and business life. I contributed to various products, found as a Security Professional a lot of vulnerabilities and hacks into various pieces of private, public and business, so more or less professional Software.

Let me provide a quick summary:

  • Audits do not replace the eyes of the Open Source Community (OSS)
  • It’s not true that most OSSers would be stupid idiots who have no clue about their Software
  • Open Source products ARE more secure, objectively. Their stuff and dependencies are more looked at and scanned by various tooling. Bugs / Flaws are reported earlier and fixed quicker
  • Open Source Software is heavily scanned by a variety of tools. A closed source product can’t be scanned that much
  • Code dependencies can always be hijacked, especially in closed source projects (see the large security vendors like FireEye or the company SolarWinds that suffered from a supply chain attack)
  • Open Source projects can coop better than closed sourced derivates with Supply Chain Attacks (see PHP Supply Chain Attack that was prevented/detected very fast unlike the SolarWinds case)
  • Germany is a very expensive country, that’s right! Though it is still possible to run good projects over here, especially open sourced ones.
  • Most of the OSS Community are contributing to it while doing another job. That’s why there’s less activity in most OSS Projects. However, high changes in code do not mean quality / good activity
  • Though what’s true in both sides of all this: there’s no 100% security/saftey or privacy. Security and Privacy can be against each other. BUT … open source is the way to go in all modern development projects
  • That closed-source ones would have more success is a stupid narrative, that can easily be falsified. Most people run away from e.g. Microsoft Products, because they cause heavy costs, lack from proper security (revenue > security; revenue > privacy) and also serious bugs aren’t fixed in-time
  • All (larger / growing) companies lack from fixing the revenue vs security & privacy issue. The root cause lies in the asymmetry of (modern) Software (Development). Companies are failing because they are build up on classic business doctrines that don’t work anymore in our century
  • Remember things like Electron, most of the APIs and programming languages you use, the compilers, websites, hardware… Linux (Servers, Desktop), Chromium (Browsers), PHP, MariaDB, the new OS Java, a ton of Minecraft stuff and all other stuff. They didn’t just “spawn” there.

It’s sad to see that people still try to damage good things, like Open Source and FOSS. Please refrain from doing so. Better find ways to make business with good concepts not without them!

In case you are using a closed source product like Mac, ask Apple (the company providing it) to help the developers of this product by providing finances and information. Otherwise you just prove the point.

People who want to stay in business, need to listen to people like the OSS. We are putting new ideas, fresh content and privacy/security in your products. We are thriving your product, we advertise. We are providing the basic tools, so you can do your work, to provide the final products.

I understand that there’s a lot of effort to run a project and managing code / the project with two people. While obtaining new ideas and adding them. That’s the kinda asymmetry I was talking about.

Hope this develops into something more sustain, would love to see growing OS birds here. Lets find ways to make the impossible possible! Lets be Obsidian.



I don’t really understand everyone’s obsession with open sourcing of Obsidian. Are you all professional programmers and specialists on cyber security? Will you audit Obsidian code after the afters publish it sources? The only issue bothering me is Obsidian is free for personal use only, it’s not officially legal to use it on corporate PC without subscription.


I’m totally not against open source. But if I’m not mistaken there are a few markdown editors out there that are open source. If open source was THE key to make a very successful product, then those products would be better and more popular than Obsidian, but I believe this is not the case.


Business models like bitwarden, gitlab… etc.
Even when open-sourcing, free users are limited in space or number of notes, while paid users can use more features.

In my opinion, this business model can bring more revenue.
Please consider it.

(For context, some of these replies are from a duplicate thread that got merged in.)

I’d like to remind everyone that the devs made their stance clear. You’re free to voice your opinion here. But if someone makes a point you feel compelled to argue or rebut, just remember that *not replying* is always an option too. You’ll notice there aren’t many changed minds in this thread.

Just saying, before this thread bubbles back up into arguments. It tends to come in waves.


Just saying, before this thread bubbles back up into arguments. It tends to come in waves.

:bubbles: :wave: :ocean:

Wow, you were right.

Many people miss the point and make skewed arguments - MarkText is Open source and amazing for doing markdown.

Obsidian isn’t a ‘Markdown Editor’ - it’s more of a Notes manager and organiser.

It took place beside Joplin - which is a brilliant Notes app - but which is opaque…

If I save this page as Markdown right now, I can open it in Obisidan right now, and link it into my ‘Notes’ folder, or ‘Notes/Applications’.

However, as a Linux user, I can’t help feeling that every time I open something that isn’t Open Source, a baby dies somewhere…

I don’t understand the prejudice against Open Source - but I do understand that people feel the need to own their software and restrict it.

However, money is an issue. Some absolutely HUGE open source projects quit, because even after the world snaps them up, they still can’t get paid.


First I just want to thank the Obsidian team for the great product they’ve created. I am not an Obsidian user now (event though I was considering getting back before reading this thread), but I do lack some features I was enjoying in the past with Obsidian.

I didn’t quite read the whole thread, just a few key points, and I believe that certain things were omitted that I want to address.

What it has to lose by becoming OSS

One issue with open sourcing the code would be creating the possibility for
premium features to be distributed for free. I know a few programs that distribute
their free version under an OSS license, and the paid version under an commercial one.
However, this is a non issue for Obsidian, since it claims to provide the full functionality
with the free distribution.

Another major problem I think would be the forks (as was mentioned in the thread),
and specifically users coming with issues they had on a fork and bugging the Obsidian developers. Nevertheless, I believe they could use a license that requires forks to be renamed and rebranded, and it also has a big and great community that could point to the root of the issue (to take some work from the developers shoulders).

So to be fair, if the Obsidian team is sincere it has nothing critical to lose. Again, there
are bigger and more complex FOSS projects that seem to do great despite being FOSS (not just OSS :)))).

What it has to gain from staying close sourced

(Sorry if I repeat things that were said before, I couldn’t help to read everything, but these points seemed to miss in the thread)

As the saying goes: If a product is free than you are the product. Since Obsidian seems
to have little to lose from being opensource (my opinion) why wouldn’t it trust the users
and opensource the source code? The most obvious answer to me is that:

  1. They have something to hide, maybe an inconvenient truth. Facebook also says on its front page that they respect your privacy.
  2. They want to have the possibility to do nasty stuff in the future, if it’s is sincere now. Maybe they want to sell out in the future, when their price becomes high enough? and they make sure no forks will be available for users live Obsidian for (as did GitHub or Audacity) or maybe they will want to process our data? (why should we trust them if they don’t trust us)

And the idea with selling out or changing the policy is worse than them just getting out of the business (as some proposed). Since when the app isn’t developed anymore you can still use it, look at all the packages on Linux that are not maintained for years but are still useful :rofl:. But if they change their policy, even if you use an older version of the softer, it’s very likely that there will be change in the API and all the plugins you have might become incompatible with it.

I really hope I am just a paranoid Libre Software enthusiast, since I like the software and I would even consider getting a paid version of it if it will trust me. Cheers!

Before reaching the main point of my comment I want to thank Obsidian for such a great product! And I must remark that I am not a fluent programmer in any way, and not in the slightest familiar with the implications of going open source.

I do want to ask that if the intention behind remaining closed source is so that the code does not get used by competitors, is it possible for a user to buy the code, and sign up a license which guarantees that he will never use it in a commercial fashion, so that the user can make his own customization more conveniently, or be assured that his vaults remain functional in the (unlikely) event that the official team some day stops development / maintenance or alter policies?

Considering that most users use the free version for only personal use (I believe), I imagine that Obsidian would not lose anything essential by offering the possibility for such users to buy the source code and maintain the app personally if they are able to.

Of course I would also appreciate the possibility where Obsidian open sources the app and suffers no loss of the ability to profit. But then I am not familiar with open source policies so this is just my own imagination.

And what about a source code escrow agreement, monthly funded by the community ?
There could be clauses such as “if no updates are released for 18 months, then the source code is released by the lawyer under AGPL-3.0-or-later licence” and “if the escrow funding bucket runs out of money, then the escrow agreement is cancelled”
I would be happy to help funding such a thing, as it seems to be the best of both worlds


But this is assuming you don’t trust the devs already, right?
Like: say the devs were untrustworthy. Then why would they even adhere to this agreement. They could just release a small useless update every 12 months with the changelog “bugfixes” and that would mean they don’t have to release the code.
I get where you’re coming from. But either you trust the devs, or you don’t


The point of using markdown is to future proof your entire vault. Obsidian could disappear today and you’d still be able to access your vault without issues. Your vault is not reliant on obsidian at all. Your vault is literally a bunch of text files that Chromium (Yes Obsidian is built on the same browser that powers Edge and Chrome) interprets them as html in real time and connects in a specific way.

These connections are not unique to Obsidian at all. There are plenty of other programs that can relink these connections without Obsidian. You can even translate your .md files to html and open them in any browser as you see them in obsidian (as long as you save the obsidian.css or your own css file) otherwise it will look different. You can also convert these links to local file locations after you convert your files to html so you can literally browse your entire vault like a website in any browser.

Either way all your data is indepenant and stored in text files so small you can carry them around on a CD, from 1996. Oh and by the way Chromium is open source, the only thing unique to obsidian are the tools, plugins and gui.


The obsidian team needs to think about the open source business model. bitwarden, mattermost, plausible, gitlab etc…
It is necessary to use a server that supports e2ee as a self-hosting business model, not an obsidian client. I think obsidian would make more money if they open source the server.


People are really losing sight of the basic situation here. Obsidian is just a layer. You have possession of your notes and data. The data lives wherever you put it. Obsidian, the company, does not obtain your data. Obsidian, the app, just operates locally to help you manipulate that data.

Let’s compare to other services:

Evernote retains your data behind a proprietary wall. It’s a bit difficult to get your notes out of it to something else. (Not impossible, but only because Evernote offered a path to convert notes).

Jopling is open source, but your notes are still kinda stuck in a local Joplin database. It’s a little bit difficult to get your notes out of that, too. You can’t just take your Joplin folder elsewhere and use it with anything else.

With Facebook, you willingly put your data on their servers. Their ToS clearly states that your posts, images, etc, live on their machines and become their intellectual property. When they say they respect your privacy, they mean that they are transparent with you about how they retain your data and who they sell your data to, so you know (in theory) what you’re getting into before you sacrifice your privacy to them.

Obsidian does not retain or sell your data. They don’t even obtain your data unless you are a paid Sync client. Sensibly, if you are concerned about privacy, the primary discussion would be open sourcing the Obsidian Sync server end. Not the client.

What nasty stuff are they going to do with data they don’t have, though? Obsidian runs locally.