Is Memex going Closed Source?

memex-common dependency required by both Memex and Memex-Mobile is not available anymore on GitHub, making it impossible for us to build from source.
Is Memex going closed source?

It appears Memex is not open source anymore.
I’ve been closely following Memex since 2017 and I remember having a chat with Oliver mentioning that Memex would be self hostable in the future. With Memex going closed source, I don’t think there would be a self hostable version everin the future.
I really had high hopes for Memex and the ecosystem of applications they were developing, but it pains me to see that such an application led by huge contributions from the community go closed source and I feel it won’t be too long before the suite of applications follow along.

It’s been a good run and I think it’s time for me to part ways with Memex before
it’s too late.

I really hope you people update your marketing to reflect the new change as
clearly as you were advertising when it was open source and notify the existing users of such a massive change.

Hey Will!

yes, that’s right, some of the code is going to be closed source.
I am sorry to disappoint you, and everyone else reading this that values Memex being open source.
We’re not far from home though. For now, Memex Extension is changing to a source-available license, which is still open, but non-commercially usable, and our sync and collaboration cloud core will be closed source.

Admittedly, that 4-years-ago-Oliver was also way more idealistic about all the things that can or should be done.
Self-hosting is still a dream to work towards but it doesn’t help if we never get to stand on solid ground to finance all of these developments, or if it is even the most practical solution to give users data ownership and a better service.
In the past 2 years we painfully learnt to pick our battles better.
As a company we’re trying to navigate the complexities of not taking VC money, thus requiring to be profitable and still be as open source as possible. It’s not an easy stretch and I hope we can work our way back to more classic open-source licenses together with the community.

We are about to release 3.0.0 with the new local-first multi-device sync (already in store review) and have written a launch post that also explains the license decisions.

You actually caught me right in the process of writing an update email to our user base with this blog post.:v:t4:
People would have also gotten the message via the update notification in Memex once 3.0.0 lands on their computers.

Looking forward to hear your perspective on how we can fix this.
You can join the conversation in the forum category I opened.

Oliver

I don’t understand how it is a local-first multi-device sync when all it’s doing is Device A <-> Google Firebase <-> Device B, isn’t it called a cloud sync? and with the code being closed source we really don’t have any clue what’s going on in the background and what you might be doing with the data.

There are plenty of applications which are open source, but also offer a paid/premium service and I just wish Memex to be open source while charging for the services like you’ve been doing till now.

Mhh I consider it being still local first if you can use all data locally and without an internet connection. You can even use Memex only local without even signing up for the cloud sync in the first place.
Also, some functionalities are just impossible as of today without any cloud (like sharing & collaboration features).
Self-hostability in general is technically not feasible as of now in an environment where you have people collaborating on stuff from multiple different servers. It works much better if you just have to sync and share your own stuff. Maybe in a few years IPFS is ready, but that is not yet the case.

and with the code being closed source we really don’t have any clue what’s going on in the background and what you might be doing with the data.

Yeah that is true, and at this point its more a matter of trust than anything else.
We would never look at the data or do anything with it. If anyone did it would be a reason for instantly letting them go.
We do our best to use the most effective leverage points to protect your privacy and data, e.g. by using Steward Ownership instead of VC as our model (caps investor profits and makes it impossible to sell the company) that are not incentivising exploiting those bc of profit maximisation drive.
We are also limited in funding, and have been too idealistic in the past, having for example been trying to build this sync end2end encrypted and webRTC supported, leading us to horribly slow iteration cycles, and wasting a lot of money, and creating a frankly sub-par experience for users too. That almost killed the company, and if we folded it wouldn’t have helped anyone.
We hope to deploy more privacy protecting features in the future and figure out ways of making our operations and handling of your data more transparent. Now we just don’t have the resources for making it bullet proof unfortunately.

There are plenty of applications which are open source, but also offer a paid/premium service and I just wish Memex to be open source while charging for the services like you’ve been doing till now.

Indeed, there are some, but success there is very rare and not really ‘plenty’ in my observations, but maybe I am not having some of them on the radar. Curious to learn from examples you have in mind.
I hope you can live with our intention to make Memex more open, while still being able to use/see most of the code, and maybe all of it in the future again. We just need time to think this through and remove one of the biggest thread vectors to our business so we can build the foundation for our longterm sustainability, which benefits everyone too.

Sad to see Memex go closed source.
I have so many questions:
What will the status of memex-common library going forward? Is it being worked on so people can still build Memex without the collaboration features (closed source part) or does it end here for people who want to build and modify the code?

I think you did a wonderful work with the sync and it would be awesome if you could keep sync under the source-available license so we can build applications based on the sync you built without re-inventing the wheel, besides the sync infrastructure you built doesn’t rely on your cloud as far as I can see in memex-common/sync part of the code.

Hey Benjamin,

I think some of those questions may have already been answered in our statement in the launch post that I linked in the message before, if you’ve seen that. (e.g. status of memex-common or our plans to enable people building/using memex without collab features)

Re making the sync source-available or even open source: That would be great but is indeed the really tricky stretch we need to figure out, for the reasons mentioned in the launch post statement. Also to what extend we can actually make it into a library for other people to use and self host. I like the obsidian model of paying for sync and collaboration separately. What I can think of already is having those also separated out on the pricing level, with the option of self hosting just the sync.
Curious to figure this out, though admittedly it’s right now not a topic that is on the top of my mind, and for sure not until we are on a solid financial ground.

So, it’s not really a priority right now. You should’ve separated the code prior to the release, with it’s current broken state and with the lack of your resources and time I doubt if it ever sees the light of the day.

With your team all hands-on-deck on collaboration features, closing sync core and with the expanded codebase, I doubt if you’ll ever consider making Memex fully open source like you mention in the launch post.

We just don’t know yet when we’ll have the time, i hope that is an understandable reason. It’s definitely not something that we wanna brush off forever.
I just can’t make any promise of when and how that will happen, and don’t want to make any concessions right now that will bite my ass later. The idealistic Oliver learnt to be more realistic about statements he has little control/foresight about and in the end only causes disappointment, like it does now.

As mentioned in the launch post, we’ll also work towards having memex-common split into a package that can be used by people to build the extension on their own without the sync/collaboration infrastructure.
That may actually come quite soon because it’s also for us a developer experience PITA to have memex-common share the closed and public parts.

We have a separated version that is clean and without any of the premium/cloud features etc. You can find it here.

May I ask what your particular use case for Memex being open-source is? Did you/do you plan to tinker with the code in the past?

Sync: I was hoping to replace firebase as the backend for sync.
I’m also building a time-tracking extension using Storex and was planning to use your sync core and everything went just down the drain.

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This is a real shame for me.
I don’t really want “cloud” or fancy sync/collab features, personally, I’m sure others do and that’s fine.

I was looking forward to eventually having a local, self hosted version for myself on my phone, etc. Seems it’s not happening.

Even more troubling is that I accidentally clicked “migrate”, and realised that it’s uploading all my data - I didn’t want that. Backups tab shows a endless spinning circle - lucky I found your offline version, downloaded it and saw I had a backup from a few days ago…

Preferring offline only, I’m now stuck with continuing with “cloud”, or on an unsupported version with a “maybe self hosted version” in future - with no certainty that if I use Memex 2.20.0, that if this “maybe” comes to life, that the backups from that version will work in this “future” maybe version…
I can’t even do local backups on the cloud version, you’ve basically ripped that functionality out and now I have to choose.

Hopefully if you ever “maybe” do self hosted, local only, you support the Memex 2.20.0 backups.

To be clear, if you do get to self hosted, some sort of paid feature for it, donations to support its open source nature, I’m all for it.
I also think you should make sure that you build in backwards compatibility for those that choose to stay on “offline”, and if they ever go to your cloud or open source version (if that ever happens). Feels like you’ve tossed the product up in the air and created a divide.

Hey Reese,

I am sorry to disappoint, this was also a difficult decision for us.
Ultimately it was for us about being able to build a service that lasts.

It’s really difficult to make this sustainable, and not raise VC money.
We also want to see a future where all of this is possible or even maintain an offline-first version at some point. But all of this costs money to build and keep running. Money that we don’t have plenty of at the moment.

Also, I am with you that open-source software and offline first is great and we should be working towards, but are difficult, expensive and make the development iterations slow. It almost killed our company, and so there would be no Memex at all.

You should still be able to backup your data to your local hard drive via the settings though.
If you go to this page it should be possible: chrome-extension://abkfbakhjpmblaafnpgjppbmioombali/options.html#/backup

If you like I and delete your data in the cloud. Just send me a PM with your email address that you registered with.

Thanks for the quick reply.

Yes, backups do not work for me.

I’ve many times thought about a subscription with Memex, especially for the local/phone sync, but that’s not happening, it’s cloud, which is not what I had wanted.
So, the only way that’s going to work is having an open source version with some sort of subscription or donation model to keep it going.

It’s syncing, slowly, so I’ll wait for sure.

FYI, I’d like to iterate, will you be adding backwards compatibility with the offline version and/or open source (if that time comes)

My offline version’s restore is also stuck at 96%. :confused:

They do a very poor job at communicating with the users. Often they link to notion pages to find out more information and I’ve to either create an account to read the information or is private. Seriously?

Honestly I lost hope on self-hosted version when they chose firebase.
What irks me is that they’ve been charging users for sync up until 3.0.0 release and suddenly they make it a free plan. People who’ve been using Memex for years under the assumption that it’s offline only are now forced to use their cloud services to backup/sync, I don’t know how this is offline only.
I wonder how you’ll be able to pay for firebase when you don’t have much money, this seems more like a data gathering scam, selling user’s data to stay in business and resuming premium subscription on sync at some later point.

So, the only way that’s going to work is having an open source version with some sort of subscription or donation model to keep it going.

+1

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Yes this is weird, not sure if it’s Notion or WorldBrain’s doing

Yes, the marketing materials must change. It’s definitely turning into a bait and switch game where you get people hooked for free then change it up, and of course leaving your previous supporters in the lurch.

I find it hard to believe that there can’t be some reasonable compromise to keep an offline and “cloud” version. Reddit.com/r/selfhosted would prob eat it up. That’s free advertising. My 2 cents. End of day, business is business and they have to do what’s in their best interests, and we have to decide if we’re supporting them or not in their updated mission.
Hopefully Memex can get their game plan sorted, keep their cashflow and do good by their original open source mission, keep customer traction and their open source code without hurting their bottom line.

We recently realised that notion switched their linking system so that there 2 share links now (one with site.notion.so for public sharing and one internal one with notion.so/page93304. Not all of them seem to be updated, doing that is on my list.
Can you help me which link you used that led to a login-blocked page?

I find it hard to believe that there can’t be some reasonable compromise to keep an offline and “cloud” version

Yeah it should be possible, and our infrastructure is at least set up to support something like that in the future. The thing is, maintaining both is a big task, and we are only 2 developers. so for now we have to pick our battles well.
So yeah, hoping too that we can get our cashflow sorted and are able to do this in the future.

What irks me is that they’ve been charging users for sync up until 3.0.0 release and suddenly they make it a free plan.

I think those users have been getting value for their buck the whole time. And we are so thankful because they also helped us to find funding, and help continue building the product. Without them we wouldn’t be here. If you look in the past how we treated early supporters, we always gave them more than we initially promised, like the credits they got for supporting us early on, the leeway we gave early subscribers to keep their subscriptions longer once we made a big switch etc.

Cancelling the subscriptions now and make it free, I don’t think it is unfair though. Quite the opposite, now making it free while we know things are still a bit unstable and in beta is fair - to everyone, if they paid previously or not.
All subscriptions, and their charges are cancelled and their remaining credits prorated so they can be used in the future. So even those who paid will be fairly treated in that regard.

That’s free advertising. My 2 cents.

Sounds good in theory, but there are simply not enough people that value self-hosting first, and product-working second. It’s the other way around. If the product works, self hosting is great. If it doesn’t no one gives a shit :confused:

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