News and Updates
Marius began with the important news that UBports has now gained foundation status!
This has been approved in Germany, exactly two years after Canonical dropped Ubuntu Touch. That was when we took over all the responsibility for its maintenance and development. Even before that happened, we had built a relationship with our major sponsor, Smoose. They were the ones who urged us to create a foundation and gave us a lot of support along the way, to secure the future of a great independent phone OS.
We have in fact been acting as a ‘shadow’ foundation for some time but at last we are doing it officially. We are now a proper legal entity.
Florian, who you already know, is a member of the Board. We are also joined by Ewald. He is a Smoose guy and he has done lots of work behind the scenes to make the foundation possible.
Ricardo is also present. He is a former Canonical employee, with an amazing knowledge of commerce and licensing but he is also a developer, who worked a lot on the original Ubuntu Touch phones.
Jan (also known to you) is a key person in the creation of the foundation. He is German, so local to the legal process.
Marius is the Chair of the Board. He was the one who started a small porting community, moving UT to new devices. Marius instigated the idea of carrying on when Canonical dropped the project.
We have achieved the main aspects of what we set out to do then.
Ricardo introduced himself. He was involved from 2011 in the original team, working on libhybris and other key technical components. From a team of 20 it grew to over 100 developers at its peak. So it has been a big part of his life and it was a major personal blow when it was dropped. In February 2017, at the World Congress, he met both Marius and Smoose. To achieve our vision, it became clear then that if we wanted to move forward rapidly, we would have to organize ourselves beyond just the initial developer community. So we adopted the model previously used by others such as Gnome, the Document Foundation, Purple etc. It was a simple decision. We had to be set up on a firm basis. We would still have to do all the detailed, technical stuff but we also needed the underpinning of a formal structure and professional levels of support.
Money is important! With a foundation, we have a secure and transparent destination for donations and that is incentivized now by tax relief. That provides us with more stability and security. A foundation is also scale-able to a much larger size. We have a strong project and a strong community. A great basis for the future. We can now get more companies and enterprises to sponsor us and for greater amounts. Rather than relying on 50 euro donations, we can expect to receive thousands of euros.
It is also about being able to provide support at a professional level. The foundation can handle commercial arrangements by providing PR, hardware, expense accounts and so on. Warehousing, shipping etc becomes realistically possible because we will have the resources to do those things.
But the foundation is also a solid rock of principle, a guarantor of the values which link us.
We have been doing some of these things for a while unofficially, so we already know a lot.
Dalton introduced Ewald. Marius and the founder of Smoose met early in 2017 and agreed joint working at that stage. When Canonical exited, that association went up a gear. At that point, Ewald was seconded by Smoose to help build up UBports. Ewald had discussions with similar bodies and they generously offered their expertise. Particular thanks are due to the Document Foundation for all their help with this. Jan was the German language conduit who prepared the legal documents for the Berlin government. They asked a lot of questions. We are still working on the details of banking and taxation arrangements. Smoose loves to work with open source organizations. That is driven by the enthusiasm of the principal shareholder. They want ultimately to make possible an alternative to Android and iOS. Lawyers, accountants, trips etc were sponsored by Smoose during the preparation work. Smoose wants a long term relationship with UBports.
The Fairphone group on Telegram with around 50 members was where it all started. The rest of the community totaled around 150. It has grown dramatically since then.
Fairphone has assisted us a lot too.
For the future, new phones will come in, old phones will go out. That is what we do!
Dalton asked Florian about some of the things that have already happened. People know Florian – but perhaps not as a Board member.
Florian explained that initially, he just had an E5 and stumbled across the port for it. He got involved marginally at first. Some of the people who were around in the early days have left, unfortunately. It was just a circle of friends at the time. As he asked questions and got answers it kind of grew from there. Gradually it became clear that Canonical’s involvement was faltering and they were missing targets. After the announcement that they were dropping the project, we actually decided at once that we should go up a gear. Something ought to continue, if only for those stuck with their UT phones.
Recently, we have had face to face meetings for app development and building documentation. That is remarkable. The first Vienna meet started as a glorified dinner invitation. The latest event will be on the 4th and 5th of May in Ulm - a hackathon for Dekko2 development. Self-organized! The foundation can spread news, provide stickers, organize. Even little things can make a huge difference in practice. So by doing the practical aspects of booking venues etc, it will free developers to get on with it. Florian said that he will continue to do vital infrastructure work but not only that. He wants to be out meeting people, not just doing back office!
In a good business, the books have to be in good order. It has to be done. It may not be the most glamorous but all those practical contributions to the work of the foundation are immensely important.
Dalton showed a box of stickers. There are lots of stickers! They will go with him to all the events he attends.
Florian said to Dalton when he arrived “Welcome to the rabbit hole”. He was so right about that Alice in Wonderland quote.
Marius used Wayback Machine to show the very first UB website, powered by Wordpress. From 2015. It was then all about porting. The forum had two members!
It was UB ports at that time :) It came together as UBports later! There was only one device available, which was honestly quite unstable.
A proper website was created in 2016 and evolved from there.
Dalton thanked our sponsors.
In what ways will the foundation affect our day to day running?
As explained above, we have for a while been operating on a shadow basis but now we have official documentation. So the transition will not be abrupt.
There will be a ‘change’ of course but for the better. We can now multiply our income and direct it more efficiently and quickly. For an event, we can fund someone who has shown a lot of commitment to the project, to help them address a conference for example. We are not bound to any single company. We have a space in the marketplace, otherwise we would not be here! We can work closely with ‘senior stakeholders’ to do what we are doing now, but on a more ambitious scale. Not managing as in giving directions but as in providing expertise and professionalism. The foundation is a single place you can go to for support, rather than asking around.
Will the foundation have funding for the hackathon?
Attendance at a hackathon could indeed be funded by the foundation. In time, we could host a UBports summit for a couple of hundred of our leading people?
Are there are plans for legal contracting with businesses?
We have done that already up to a point but it has been done at a personal level. It doesn’t scale, doing it like that. A foundation can however scale. It can become the centre of the ecosystem. Art, marketing, community activities, all can draw together around it. It is the centre of gravity for all of that. Importantly, it is a body that can sign a piece of paper. That fact alone is absolutely critical for people who are maybe investing millions of euros.
It was founded in Germany. Does that affect anything? Germany is a good choice. The largest sector of the UBports community is there and it has a very solid legal system. If we are okay for Germany we are good for anywhere! For moving money around and getting contracts organised it provides very easy access across European countries. For those considering donations, it will generate a lot of confidence. Germany is also a banner holder for personal privacy. Other foundations are established there – with good reason.
In the USA, the 501 c3 non profit code requires that an organization is audited every year. That is a very expensive thing to do. Plus there are the issues of net neutrality, the location of dominant internet multinationals etc.
Germany is also a very centrally placed geographically.
What will be the role of the members of the board?
First, they will attend forums such as the Q&A, to take part in discussions.
All on the Q&A except Dalton are currently directors of the foundation. Ewald and Ricardo focus on the financial and legal aspects. The others more on community and technical matters.
Dalton is not left out though. He is Chair of the Membership Committee, which approves members, companies etc. and thereby decides who has voting rights. That committee also oversees the election of Board members. More detail about all of this will come out later. We will introduce these detailed workings gradually so as not to overwhelm. This will happen over the next few months and will be an open process. Ewald and Ricardo are contactable through Telegram, email etc. and will be happy to hear from you if you have questions, so feel free to ping them.
At least one member of the Board will be available at each community event.
The statutes for the foundation are a matter of public record and those of you who want to read the detailed stuff now can do so on our website.
None of this would have been possible without the community. You are the foundation!