On 1st of April, Ankush shared this tweet with me:
elementary OS co-founder Cassidy James has shared a link titled “Farewell, elementary”.
I looked at the headline first and then the date. 1st April. I smirked. You cannot fool me. I am not going to fall for the April Fool’s joke.
Turned out, I actually got fooled because it was not a 1st April joke.
Disagreement between the co-founders
For years, Cassidy James and Danielle Foré worked on developing Linux-based indie operating system, elementary OS. They were quite successful in creating a niche, ecosystem around elementary.
Initially, both Cassidy and Danielle worked on elementary in their free time. In 2015, Danielle and in 2018, Cassidy quit his job at System 76 to work full time on the development of elementary OS.
Things were going good revenue wise until elementary OS 6 happened during the pandemic era. Revenue kept on declining even with the release of version 6.1.
To sustain, both founders took salary cut and eliminated healthcare. Cassidy was not in favor of these cuts but there was no other immediate solution.
Meanwhile, Cassidy kept on bringing the proposal for the founders to take full-time position elsewhere while continuing guiding the development of elementary OS through contract developers.
Danielle was not in favor of this so when Cassidy considered a good opportunity in another open source company that also allowed him to work on elementary in parallel, she asked him to “resign and completely step away from elementary“.
This is from what Cassidy James shared on his blog. There is no official statement available from Danielle Foré at the time of writing this article.
Cassidy James joins Endless OS
A week later, Cassidy James revealed that he is joining Endless OS Foundation as Partner Success Engineer.
Endless OS is a nonprofit organization with the aim to make computing accessible to all. Apart from the Debian-based Endless OS, it has developed several affordable computers. There are many countries where internet is still a luxury. The focus is on providing offline computing so that communities in such areas do not stay behind.
Apart from working full time on Endless, he also plans to keep on contributing to GNOME and Flatpak communities.
While Cassidy James is looking forward to starting his new journey, the things don’t look good for the next version of elementary OS. With Cassidy leaving, a lot of burden now lies on the Danielle’s shoulders. I have a feeling that we should not expect lots of new features in elementary OS 7 (which will be based on Ubuntu 22.04).
Money matters, after all
The entire episode is another reminder that independent open source projects need good financial support either from its users or from the community and enterprises.
It’s not easy to maintain an ethical, open source project specially when you don’t have a good backing. This is coming from my personal experience with our Linux Handbook project.
If elementary OS kept on having decent revenue growth, this situation would have never arrived. But here we are.
Feel free to share your views on the entire episode.