The Hula Project

The Hula Project. # 

Today we are thrilled to be launching Hula, a new project to build an open source mail and calendar server.

Hula is a really exciting project already in part because we think that
we can fill a hitherto-unclaimed spot in the stack of open source
applications and in part because we've “primed the pump” by basing it
on an existing, functioning codebase: a Novell product called NetMail.
NetMail already runs millions of calendars and mailboxes. And so we're
starting off with the mundane work of building a functioning server
done, leaving us to focus on creating interesting new functionality.

We know the demand is high for a credible piece of software in this
space. Ever since we first released Evolution in 2000, people have been
asking us where they can find an open source server. The lack of an
implementable open calendar server protocol has crippled
calendar-server efforts for years; we think CalDAV is finally going to fix that and are getting behind that as our primary fat-client interface for Evolution and Chandler and Sunbird, and maybe Outlook as well.

Our direction is distinct from other open source collaboration server
projects in that we're not trying to build every conceivable bit of
functionality that someone might consider “collaboration” into the
server. Instead, we are focused on building great calendar and mail
functionality. The dominant collaboration solutions today (Exchange and
Notes) are built on a pre-Internet design and are just no fun to use
for real people who live on the web, who collaborate across
organizational boundaries (or who don't have organizational boundaries
to worry about), who want light-weight tools and URLs for their
meetings and their appointments on their cell phone and so on.

So we have a couple of specific ideas we want to focus on.

We will build a JavaScript-based rich client for mail and calendaring, in the style of GMail.
Those of you who follow my blog may have noticed me waxing optimistic
about the power of web clients over the last few months; even before came out and blew everyone's mind.

I searched for weeks to find an open source project that is working on
implementing an open source version of GMail. I even posted to Google answers
looking for one. It doesn't exist. Well, today we're starting one, and
we're inviting the world's crack JavaScript/DHTML hackers to help us.

We will build a real web-based calendar.
Every networked calendar I've ever used has been exactly the same:
create appointment, specify subject, location, start time, duration.
Accept/tenatively accept/decline. Private/public. Free/busy search.

And yet there's no way to schedule appointments with people for whom I
only have an email address, no way to get at my calendar data
programmatically, to script it, to view it with an RSS feed, to access
it via IM or SMS, etc. Thanks to the webcal URI standard people are starting to publish calendars
but there's no easy way to maintain these other than exporting an ICS
file from your client and copying it to a server every so often.

Why has no one rethought this model?

Well, we're going to try to. Our first ideas are up on the Hula web site. Take a second and check them out. Some of this came out of conversations with Jamie Zawinski,
and he deserves credit for focusing us on calendars instead of floating
off into, I dunno, voice over IP integration or something.

This announcement has been several months in the making here at Novell,
but the real work to build a community and interesting new
functionality is just starting. Hula is new. It's young. If you want
enterprise-class groupware functionality on Linux today, your only
reasonable option is GroupWise.
Hula will grow up over time, and probably go in new and unexpected
directions. We're looking forward to seeing where people take it.

One of the incidental things we are doing with Hula is that the web site
is a wiki. I'm really interested to see how well that works out; for
today's launch we've locked the pages to prevent opportunistic
vandalism, but we'll probably open them up to world-writeability
(literally) in a couple of days. Many thanks to Kate Turner and Brion Vibber for their help with MediaWiki over the last few days.

I'm probably going to be spending a lot of today explaining Hula to
journalists, but when I'm not doing that I'll be in #hula on freenode.   [nat friedman]

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