File Synchronization Services

May 15, 2009 in software licensing by Greg Grossmeier

This past Monday Canonical announced the closed beta of UbuntuOne which is specifically written for Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope) systems.  UbuntuOne gives the user file synchronization between multiple computers.  It does this by uploading all of the files in the ~/Ubuntu One/My Files/ folder to Canonical’s servers (currently hosted by Amazon S3), with plans to migrate to a Canonical hosted installation of Eucalyptus). There is also a web interface where the user can upload and download files in their folder when away from their Ubuntu machine.

If this sounds familiar to you it is because that functionality is very similar to services such as Dropbox and  But where UbuntuOne is different is Canonical’s plan to incorporate other synchronization features such as email contacts, user settings, etc.
The service has great potential.

Unfortunately, Canonical will not be releasing the server software for UbuntuOne as Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS). Thus, no user is able to install their own hosted version of UbuntuOne to ensure total ownership of the system and process. As someone who believes in the principles of the Franklin Street Statement, I would be much happier if UbuntuOne (or Dropbpox,, etc) would release the server code under a FLOSS license as per the recommendation of the Franklin Street Statement.

Personally, I am proud to say I am a member of the Ubuntu community. I am the leader of the Michigan Local Community Team and really believe that what Ubuntu, as a whole, is doing is beneficial for the FLOSS community.  With that said, I believe that UbuntuOne would better serve the community, and even Canonical, as a Free Network Service.  It would show Canonical’s commitment to FLOSS and be a great example for other companies thinking about entering this area.  It would also be the flagship file sync Free Network Service and thus would gain much publicity, and users, because of that.  The for-pay option of getting a larger allotment of space would still be desired and marketable.

But. there is another option!

Novell has recently revived the iFolder project and has even assigned a Community Manager to the project (Brent McConnell).  Brent has even personally ensured me that they are “totally committed to keeping iFolder open and regret the poor management of the project over the last year or so.”

iFolder, unlike any of the other alternatives, is a Free Network Service.  The code that runs on both the client and the server is
licensed under the GPLv2 giving users complete control of their data on all ends.  I would whole-heartedly encourage any person who wants a Free Network Service alternative to UbuntuOne/Dropbox to check out iFolder and its planned set of features.

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