Mitch Kapor to phase out involvement in OSAF

Mitch Kapor to phase out involvement in OSAF

Mitch Kapor will phase out his involvement in the Open Source Applications Foundation, which he founded in 2001.

The Open Source Applications Foundation has announced a major funding and personnel shakeup, including that Lotus Development founder Mitchell Kapor will begin to phase out his involvement and investment in the nonprofit organization, which he founded in 2001.

"Strategically, we find ourselves at a crossroads," OSAF's general manager, Katie Capps Parlante, said in a blog post.

"OSAF has been primarily funded by one person up to this point, Mitch Kapor. Our goal going forward is to modify our organization and our funding model to grow into a publicly supported community project, not propelled by one individual," Parlante wrote.

Parlante said moving forward, OSAF's paid staff headcount will be cut by roughly two-thirds, going from 27 to 10.

"I will be leading the next phase of the project, and Mitch will be winding down his role on the project. Mitch will provide transitional financial assistance to support the organization through 2008. Mitch will step down from the board, and I will replace him," she added.

In September, OSAF shipped a preview of its Chandler group collaboration software, which includes Chandler Desktop, Chandler Server and Chandler Hub, a Web application. The software lets users share information, such as calendars and tasks.

The release was a long time coming for a project once dubbed an "Outlook killer." Its rocky development process became fodder for a recent book, "Dreaming in Code."

"I would say I had a lot of ambitions that we wound up, for very good and practical reasons, scaling back on," Kapor said in an interview Thursday. He described the outcome as "a working subset of a grand vision."

Kapor said his interest in continuing waned. "We found ourselves in the situation that the team wanted to continue on very much," he added. "I found myself in a different place. I did not have that same level of commitment and desire, because I had the original dream in mind."

Kapor said the saga has proven to be a "huge learning experience" for him. "It's been a mixture of many different emotions. I would say it would be unfair to single out disappointment as a leading factor [in withdrawing my support]," he said.

"It felt like the right thing to do is provide this transitional support but now it has to find its own way, and its own funding. I've chosen to decouple from it but I think Katie and the team have a real shot," Kapor added.

Kapor's pending departure prompted a head-shaking eulogy from Web developer Hank Williams, who had been active in the project.

"From my perspective, Chandler was a rudderless ship. I tried to make suggestions which, though small, I felt could greatly reduce the complexity of the product. But their design process seemed to be insular and, honestly, broken," Williams said on his blog. "The failure of Chandler is sad. But indeed after six years with no viable product or even strategy, it is finally time to die."

In an interview Thursday, Parlante said OSAF intended to wean itself off Kapor's support all along.

"I don't think the project has any animosity toward Mitch," she added. "I just think through the next execution phase, he's going to be spending his energy on projects that are in an earlier phase. ... I am not unhappy and this is the right decision. It's a mutual decision between the two of us."

Parlante said she expects OSAF to be funded through a mixture of sources, including grants, partnerships and contributions.

She expressed confidence in the Chandler project's future: "We have something usable now. The user base is growing. At the end of the day we should be judged on the project we deliver ... We're not there yet, but there's a lot of promise, and I think we're going to make it."

Kapor seconded the notion. "Don't forget, Mozilla's obituary was written in 48-point type over and over again during the period before Firefox. I don't see any of those people coming back and eating crow," he said.

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