How to gracefully abandon an open-source project?

| | August 7, 2015

A few years before I was employed at our organization, it demoed a useful but specialized Java application (library plus GUI) to our peers and to a few conferences. We had several requests for copies, and one of my projects when I joined the organization was to release it the code as an open source project. My role was project manager (and licensing expert) and I contracted out the development.

The open source release was undertaken as a goodwill gesture and to raise our profile in our community.

Fast forward a few years, and the software is still on sourceforge, and we have released new versions once or twice when we’ve added features as parts of other projects. It gets a bit of use, but has not attracted any external developer contributions. It is occasionally cited by peer or academic organizations, and we know other developers are using it for their own projects.

We field occasional requests (via support email address) for help from users, usually along the lines of “why doesn’t the installer work when…”. Over the last 18 months I have been able to send these to a colleague who uses the tool internally, but their position is changing and this is no longer possible. I want to recommend to my boss that we stop supporting the software at all.

What I would like to ask is whether there a good way for our organization to withdraw from supporting open source software? What can we can do beyond adding a notice that we no longer provide support to the project website and disabling the email address?
My main concern is the ramifications for our organization’s reputation.

8 Responses to “How to gracefully abandon an open-source project?”

  1. List the project on “Unmaintained Free Software

  2. From your question you feel very personally connected to this project because of this you should write a letter, explaining your company’s leave of this project and suggest ways people can try to move on (other projects or suggest them picking this project up).

    A personal note like that would not make me think negatively of a company.

  3. Nemanja Trifunovic on November 30, -0001 @ 12:00 AM

    Actually, there are instructions on Source Forge what to do in your case. Look under Admin > Removal to find these instructions.

  4. If you have any time/resources left to handle a graceful turnover, it would probably be beneficial to try and find someone in the existing user community who may be willing to take over the project themselves. It’s not always possible to find someone, but when it does work out it’s definitely a much nicer feeling all around; for the users, for the posterity of your company, and also for anyone who may feel personally attached to the project.

  5. You should link to the project, I am curious, and you might draw attention to the project, who know?
    I suggest you repeat most on the info you gave on the Web site of the project, stating you no longer takes requests (for features or bug fixes) but you are still listening to give over the project access to whoever want it.

  6. Happens all the time. I think Eric Raymond wrote an article about this issue, but unfortunately I can’t find it with a quick google (anybody know?).

    Ideally request somebody in the community (if there is one) to step forward and take it over.

  7. Daniel Jennings on November 30, -0001 @ 12:00 AM

    Link to this page.

  8. post a notice honestly and nicely, and i dont see a problem.

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