ownCloud is one of the most important free software projects around because we all are moving to the cloud for easy access to our data anywhere, anytime. The ‘so-called’ cloud has it’s own advantages, but it also compromises one’s ownership and control of the data. The moment you put your data on someone else’s cloud you lose the control and ownership over your own data.

The cloud provider becomes the co-owner of your data and can restrict or block you from accessing your own data. That provider becomes the ‘moral’ police, ignoring any cultural values and may delete your data without your consent if they find it inappropriate according to their culture. Google recently tipped police over some ‘offensive’ private data in a user’s email and get him arrested.

So it is becoming increasingly important to take back control and ownership of your data. The best way to keep companies or authorities from going through your private data is by keeping it on a cloud that you own and run.

The answer is ownCloud.

ownCloud Inc. is a Boston-based company which offers ownCloud as an open source product. The project was founded in Germany by Frank Karlitschek, a prominent KDE developer. It received multiple rounds of investments from venture capitalists which enabled the company to expand marketing, sales and development efforts in the US and Europe.

ownCloud, the product, comes in two versions – a subscriptions based enterprise edition and a free of cost community edition. Both products share the same code base, however, the enterprise edition comes with paid support, quick bug-fixes and additional features that enterprise customers need.

Both products have symbiotic relationship with each other. While the enterprise edition brings the much needed money to develop the product, the open source community develops and improves the very code-base which is used by the company.

This ‘open source’ community around ownCloud is growing rapidly and the company is organizing the ownCloud Contributor Conference in Berlin between August 26-31.

Frank Karlitschek was attending LinuxCon and I sat with him to learn more about the conference. He recalled that when he started ownCloud he was all on his own. The very first ‘developer’ meeting had only five ‘dudes’ sitting around in a room over the weekend working on ownCloud. But the project continued to grow bigger and bigger. Last year more than 50 people attended the developer conference and worked on the ownCloud code-base.

“This year we want to take the next step and create a real conference,” said Frank. “There are already over 130 registrations.”

The conference is targeted at contributors and not general public or users so it’s really impressive to see those many registrations. The conference will have the typical hacking sessions where developers will work on bug fixing, cleaning the code or adding new features to ownCloud.

There will be two keynotes which will be delivered by Frank and Dan Callahan, senior software engineer at Mozilla. The keynotes will share the vision of ownCloud with attendees so that they are aware of it while working on ownCloud.

Talking about the open source community around ownCloud, Frank says, “I am very proud of that process because we have a very very strong user focus. I think that is different from other open source projects because we care about what our users want and we implement features that are useful for the users.”

The conference will mostly focus on polishing the code and and fixing bugs. “We are very proud of own cloud 7 as it is the most stable and the most polished release yet, but after any big merge there are small things to fix and improve and that’s the focus at the moment, said Frank.

The developers will also be working on new stuff for ownCloud 8, though there are no concrete plans for version 8 release. The possibilities are that it may be released next year.

Joseph Eckert, VP of communications at ownCloud said that company will be announcing the enterprise edition of ownCloud, which is based on ownCloud 7, in mid-September.
“It will have features that extend what we did in community in terms of integrating storage so there will be more things that you can integrate with own cloud that is primarily the key piece and there are many other pieces which are really exciting,” said Joseph.

If you want to attend the conference you can check out this page.

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