Avoid Skiff.com: falsely advertising as open source

Hello! The email software startup Skiff advertises their email client as “open source” on multiple occasions through their website.

But if you look in their Github repo, you can see that their license is actually CC-BY-NC-SA (sorry, new user, have to limit on links https://github.com/skiff-org/skiff-apps/blob/main/LICENSE).

You can quickly find, that the software is not open source, because it restricts use commercially.

I find it sad that even It’s FOSS News has gotten tricked by their false marketing.

Best part? They don’t give a shit. There was an issue on Github a year ago, where they just said:

Thank you for the feedback! I will share it with our open source legal team. There are definitely reasons why we currently go with CC, largely around non-commercial use. Please email me (hello@) if you have more questions on this too.

They also we’re advised in that issue (after closing, might not have seen) to be more transparent in their marketing, and stop saying that “we’re open source”.

So, I created a new issue. And I got a pretty funny response, in my opinion. The issue was closed shortly with the following message:

Hello! Libraries inside the codebase are MIT licensed, including skiff-crypto and skiff-ui. We are not currently going to release other products for commercial use.

Then, after an another user mentioned that some libraries aren’t, his comment got deleted, and here’s the admins response:

Oh, did you guys know that MongoDB is open source? I didn’t know.

So, I’d say refrain from using Skiff, or contributing to it. They don’t care for the community, they’re here to use open source software’s reputation for their own benefit, without being open source.

From their website:


There are plenty of less dubious alternatives.
I think we should take @Roni_Aikas 's advice and look elsewhere .

Indeed. It looks like they want to keep their source code open for most part. But at the same time, they don’t want anyone else to utilize it for commercial gain.

I have seen this dilemma with many new, small players who want to stay ‘open source’ but scared of similar copycats using the same code or bigger players exploiting their projects.

I give you an example. Plausible Analytics develops a lightweight, analytics platform. As soon as it gained some popularity, few other projects mushroomed with striking similarities.

And then there are cloud biggies like AWS that will exploit the open source projects to this extent that they opt for different licensing. MariaDB and Elastic Search are two such examples. They have their own hosted offering to generate revenue for the project. But due to the fact that they could be easily deployed on AWS, they were not getting any revenue. And there was no revenue sharing from AWS.

They were forced to change their licensing so AWS forked their project to offer them to their customers.

Just to be clear, I am not taking anyone’s side. Just what I have observed in the industry.

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That sums up the dilemma any writer of commercial software faces.
There is no solution.
Software should not be commercialised. It should all be open and free because it represents our cultural inheritance of constructive thought.
Charging for it is like charging for the intellectual achievements of our ancestors.

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Unfortunately, there are plenty of people/companies that are riding on the achievements of people long dead. Makes me think about how J. R. R. Tolkein’s family skill makes tons of money off of the Middle-Earth stuff, but he died in the 70s. I am not saying they shouldn’t get anything, but its gotten a bit ridiculous. And don’t get me started on Mickey Mouse.

As for Skiff, that is awful. I wasn’t really interested to being with, but I will certainly stay away now. Thanks @Roni_Aikas

Yes it happens, but that does not make it right.
One should only be able to charge for ‘added value’ not the entire cultural inheritance that it is added to.
And in the case of software, I am with Richard Stallman… if you do succeed in writing something useful, you should give it away freely. The best way to preserve something is to give it away… if you lock it up in a product it will die with the product, it you gift it, it may live forever.

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I agree with you, Neville. We have become too focused on profits and wealth as a society. Lots of evidence shows, though, that money only gives you happiness to a certain point. Once your needs are met (e.g. housing, food, clothing, ect) then the money itself does nothing for your happiness. And, I postulate, that if money becomes the goal in it of itself, it may lessen your happiness because you will never have enough. This means (and we’ve seen this) there are billionaires who are unhappy people, and middle class people who are happy.

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Skiff’s CEO has removed the issue regarding the false advertising today.

They are doing things to fix this problem. I am sorry for the way I have acted (pretty much spam on social media), when I could have offered solutions to the problem.


Just seeing this. I hope we can move to a more permissive license soon. Many of our most critical libraries and contributions - our entire cryptography, our entire UI library (years of design work), all of our text editor updates, and more - are already MIT licensed. To people reading, please just reach out to us and we engage quite quickly. Posting on every social channel just makes the noise louder and less helpful for us, and the feedback less constructive.