A long term non-profit home for WebThings

Hi everyone,

At the end of last year Michael Stegeman, David Bryant and I spun WebThings out of Mozilla as an independent open source project. We wanted to make sure that the project could continue despite a major round of layoffs at Mozilla which meant the company could no longer support it.

Due to the limited time we had available to transition the project before Mozilla shut down the WebThings Cloud infrastructure, we agreed to use my existing UK limited company (Krellian Ltd.) as its new legal home. This meant Krellian taking on legal and financial responsibility for WebThings through a written legal agreement with Mozilla Corporation.

We put in place an open governance system to distribute decision making amongst the WebThings community, through a hierarchical module ownership system inspired by the one used by the Mozilla project, with Michael and me as the initial top level module owners. At the time we discussed the possibility of setting up a separate non-profit legal entity for WebThings at a later stage, once the project grew beyond a certain size or if the needs of Krellian the company and WebThings the community should start to diverge.

Over the last seven months the tree of modules and module owners has steadily grown, whilst Michael Stegeman sadly had to stop contributing leaving me as the sole top level module owner. Following discussions about project governance in the last Monthly Public Meeting in April, it became clear that some members of the community felt ready to transition the project to a long term non-profit home, with a Project Board to steer its direction.

I therefore wrote to the current set of module owners to propose the creation of a new non-profit legal entity to oversee the WebThings project, with the current module owners as the initial members of a Project Board. After discussing this over the last couple of months, they have instead decided to apply for WebThings to be adopted by an existing non-profit umbrella organisation, and have started the process to apply to both the Software Freedom Conservancy and the Eclipse Foundation as potential homes.

I do not intend to be part of a new Project Board myself, because as the founder and original Product Owner of WebThings at Mozilla I don’t want my original vision and goals for the project to get in the way of where the community wants to take it next. As part of this change I therefore also plan to step down as the top level module owner of the project under the current module ownership system, to make way for new leadership. I do however intend to remain a peer of the existing WebThings Gateway module in order to continue to contribute and help with the ongoing W3C compliance work.

It will take time to fully transition the WebThings project and all of its assets to a new non-profit legal home and I will support the Project Board in doing that.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has contributed to WebThings since the project was spun out of Mozilla, which has enabled it to continue. I hope the project will continue to thrive and grow under its new home and leadership.

If you have any questions, please feel free to raise them here, in the #WebThings Matrix channel, or privately with members of the interim Project Board:

Happy hacking.

Ben

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Ben, thank you for all the work you’ve done to make WebThings what it is and keep the project alive. I installed WebThings about a year ago after exhausting all of the popular alternatives and was immediately blown away by the simplicity and ease of use. It’s my hope that the community can keep the project alive because it is the most approachable and easy to use Home Automation products I’ve ever encountered.

You and everyone else involved in the project should be proud of what you’ve created.

Thank you.

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A follow-up.

Seven months later the Interim Project Board have unfortunately not succeeded in securing a new non-profit home for the WebThings project and the deadline we set of transferring financial responsibility by 31st December 2021 has now passed.

I’m also aware that no further public project meetings or software releases have occurred during this time, so people may understandably be wondering what’s going on.

Since Krellian’s existing sponsorship fund for the project ran out in December, I have been faced with two options:

  1. Shut the project down and turn off the cloud infrastructure with immediate effect
  2. Find another way to fund and continue working on the project

Since I expect none of us wanted option 1, I decided to try option 2.

I’m happy to share that Krellian has recently been accepted onto a startup accelerator with a view to building commercial products around the WebThings platform. The accelerator includes a small grant which will partially fund this work and enable Krellian to pay for the project’s hosting costs for a while longer, until new revenue streams can be created to support the project.

Tim Hellhake has kindly reinstated me as a top level module owner of the project in order to get it moving again and work on a long-overdue WebThings Gateway 1.1 release as a next step.

The Interim Project Board have been disbanded and the existing open governance system will remain in place for the foreseeable future. I’m still open to the idea of creating a dedicated non-profit entity to oversee the project in the future, but for now I think our focus should shift from discussing governance to delivering releases, in order to re-gain some momentum.

I’d like to take this opportunity to again thank everyone who has contributed to, and continues to contribute to, the WebThings open source project. Your contributions will certainly continue to be needed as we test upcoming releases and chart a new future for the project together under Krellian’s renewed stewardship.

Stay tuned for further release updates and product announcements!

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Hi Ben, I assume there are no new announcements as of now, unless they’re on another thread. I have been using webthings flawlessly for some time now. One of the things I appreciate is its cloud server enabling checking on my konnected device from the road and make sure there are no untoward parties going on in my absence. For a while I had a smart thermostat set up that I could use to control the a/c but alas a new a/c has a proprietary smart thermostat built in (boo Ruud).

That’s correct, Krellian is still sponsoring the WebThings cloud hosting. Feature development is slow at the moment due a slow down in contributions, but I’m currently working on an urgent 1.0.1 bugfix release.