FreePBX Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Preston McNair

Preston McNair

FreePBX Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Since its beginning in 1992, when the first audio and video multicasts were broadcast over the Internet, open source telecom has grown well beyond being a hobbyist platform that you play with on the weekends. FreePBX® generates billions of dollars of revenue per year in hardware, software, services and support sales not only for us, but for everyone using and reselling FreePBX. It is used in millions of active systems across the planet.

We realize that the FreePBX EcoSystem, user base, our corporate and enterprise customers and partners need things to be solid, stable and easily replicated. To this end, last week we made a pretty big announcement: Schmooze and FreePBX were acquired by Sangoma.

Everyone at Schmooze is excited about being part of a larger, more mature company with more resources to help us deliver even more value to the users of FreePBX and SIPStation. The acquisition will enable acceleration in the development of the FreePBX open source project, commercial add-ons and our SIPStation services and allow our team to utilize and expand upon the resources already in place at Sangoma.

Acquisitions and mergers of this size come with speculation about the direction the new combined company may take. Couple that with a user base as large as FreePBX and there are sure to be many concerned parties and community members wondering about our intentions and the overall direction and future of FreePBX — as an open source project.

Judging from responses over the weekend, we can see many community members still feel burned by a previous fork of FreePBX: Asterisk@Home, which was purchased by Fonality and turned into Trixbox CE, which was then discontinued and it is no longer available online.

The team here at Schmooze, as a Sangoma Company, understands the reservations you may have. Like you, many of us were in the same boat as you when Fonality took Trixbox in that new direction. Therefore, we are using that same experience to guide our actions in stewarding FreePBX.

“Forking” and “stewarding” a project are not the same thing.

You can be a steward of your own fork, but you can’t be the steward of someone else’s fork. In the case of Trixbox CE, they forked FreePBX. They deviated from the original source code and did not provide fixes/patches/enhancements back to the project.

While Schmooze has also forked FreePBX for our PBXact customers, we have always submitted patches and enhancements back to the original code base. The only major differences between the two products come with the modular subsystem of FreePBX through commercial and PBXact only modules. These modules provide additional services on top of a base FreePBX system, turning your standard FreePBX system into a highly powerful PBXact system, while still enabling an instant security fix or enhancement to the underlying code at the same time as any normal FreePBX user would.

We have made many of these modules available for purchase to augment or add functionality, as you need it into FreePBX without having to completely transition to a full commercial solution. We think this approach is the best of both worlds, providing you with a more dynamic product from which to build your communications solutions.

In terms of the merger, we made a similar announcement just two years ago when the FreePBX trademark and copyrights were acquired by Schmooze. At that time there were also speculations about our intentions when it came to FreePBX in the open source sense. This time around, however, we would like to do a better job of explaining our intentions.

First, the group of people that lead Schmooze and Sangoma are not new arrivals to the FreePBX scene just wanting to take advantage of a popular open source PBX project. We have team members and contributors that have been around since day one (even some that have left and rejoined us). The same team that carried and supported FreePBX through both good times and darker hours of its progression are still onboard and seeing it through this next evolution of its history.

A Quick History of FreePBX

Ten years ago, the FreePBX project was started by a small company called Coalescent Systems as AMP (Asterisk Management Portal) to deliver an easy to use GUI for managing the Asterisk Telephony Engine. The initial release of FreePBX was simply four database tables that wrote out configuration files for Asterisk® to use.

Since its initial release in 2004, the FreePBX Project has grown to become more than just a generator for config files for Asterisk, but an entire platform and communications ecosystem depended upon by millions to provide a stable, feature-rich communications platform upon which businesses and individuals can build their dreams.

FreePBX today encompasses over two hundred and nineteen thousand lines of code and hundreds of tables. It not only writes configs for Asterisk, but provides support for a full PBX environment, from a super-fast installation, allowing you to start configuration in a matter of minutes to ongoing updates to the entire system, including FreePBX, Asterisk, the operating system and the hundreds of other components that make up the system.

Like many open source projects, leaders and core contributors have entered and exited the project as life and interest level fit their needs. For the past five years or so Schmooze has taken a leadership role in pushing the development, and eventually becoming home to many of the most active and talented FreePBX developers from across the planet. Schmooze has allowed people with a passion for VoIP and FreePBX a place to call home. The ability to earn a living from the platform that we love has also been an added benefit. Having a team dedicated to FreePBX has enabled Schmooze to pull in some of the world’s best developers and has produced most of the enhancements added to the platform over the past five years. Over the last 12 months with Schmooze as the steward, FreePBX itself has seen a 185% increase in source code commits and a 160% increase in external contributors.

In order to fund the development of the open source FreePBX and make sure we could keep the development team together, we have produced commercial add-ons, professional support services and partnered with many third party products and vendors to integrate them into the FreePBX EcoSystem. However we haven’t lost sight of what makes FreePBX valuable, which is the open source distribution model. Without the open source platform, the ecosystem would likely not have evolved to spur what is likely billions of dollars of revenue worldwide in software, hardware, services and support currently generated by FreePBX.

FreePBX 12

We would like to point out that over the past year the biggest releases and advancements in the open source product have been introduced. FreePBX 12 was such a significant enhancement to the product that we completely revised the release numbers.

Some of the highlights of the open source features we added to 12 include :

  • The release of the SHMZ OS, an operating system optimized for VoIP
  • With the release of FreePBX 12 we added support for two new versions of Asterisk (12 and 13), including support for the new PJSIP channel driver
  • New centralized user management module
  • New FreePBX Dashboard
  • Integrated additional features in Module Management including support for rolling back upgrades
  • Enhancements to Call Parking enabling direct slot parking
  • Enhancements to Call Recording controls
  • Major rewrites and upgrades to the Core Framework of FreePBX
  • A completely new User Control Panel, built from the ground up, that gives users control of their voicemail, voicemail settings, presence, personal settings, follow me management, call reports and recordings all from a mobile friendly interface, that will scale from desktop to smartphone to tablet

All of the above work is what Schmooze did to enhance FreePBX on the open source side, all of these new features and enhancements can be freely downloaded, and quickly installed using the FreePBX Distro or manually.

We did all of these things with a small team of professionals working long hours to push the envelope of what open source telephony can do.

The FreePBX community has benefited from Schmooze’s stewardship of FreePBX and will continue to benefit from Sangoma’s much broader resources and over 30 years of experience in telecom. We are excited about the stability and credibility this acquisition adds to FreePBX and about the commitment Sangoma has made to maintaining and investing in FreePBX as an open source solution.

By joining forces with Sangoma, Schmooze and the FreePBX project will begin a new era to expand and build upon the world’s most popular open source PBX platform, FreePBX. Over the next year we will keep you in the loop as to any important changes coming to Schmooze in terms of the merger as we figure out the next steps for Schmooze itself. So please join us while we celebrate this next evolution in the history of the FreePBX EcoSystem. We look forward to working with you to continue to build and enhance the FreePBX platform!

-The Sangoma/FreePBX Team

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