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Resetting the foundations for a sustainable future of Mahara

Kristina Hoeppner's profile picture
Posts: 4746

21 April 2023, 15:16


At this time of the year, we typically announce a new version of Mahara. We have completed the work for Mahara 23.04, but have decided to pause on its public release. This post outlines the reasons for this decision and invites all community members to engage with us on resetting the foundations for the sustainable future of Mahara.

Catalyst has been the primary development company and maintainer of the Mahara project for the past 16 years. Over this period Catalyst has funded a dedicated team responsible for the bi-annual release of new features; the provision of updates to existing versions (particularly for security and other high importance bug fixes); and leading on community support.

Over this time, the Mahara community has benefited hugely from the investments made by Catalyst's clients in funding new features and bug fixes that have been pushed regularly to the open source project. We also acknowledge that selected Mahara Partners and long-term project supporters outside of Catalyst have provided code contributions and translation support in particular. However, the majority of the global community is not involved in regular project code contribution or funding.

In the past, we have tried different ways to generate co-funding for the project, the Catalyst team, and supporting infrastructure, but have now reached the point where Catalyst can no longer bear the lion's share of these costs. It is for this reason that the Mahara project team has elected to pause the public release of 23.04. We will instead invest time in exploring how to best offer Mahara services that distribute the costs more equitably across our global community.

Invitation to discuss the future of the project

We believe that the use of open source software enables the greatest level of freedom, collaboration, and innovation. Catalyst as our primary supporter firmly believes in the need for an open source portfolio offering. Its commitment to Mahara as an open source project does not change. We do however need to explore a more commercial model of its delivery to ensure we can maintain its feature rich, stable, and secure future.

Over the coming weeks, as we take the next steps to develop this commercial offering, we will invite you to share your views on what is important to your use of Mahara. If you would like to join focus groups to help in this process please get in touch.

Please view the 'Questions and answers' page for questions you may have and email us for any others.

Thank you


Kristina Hoeppner's profile picture
Posts: 4746

03 May 2023, 12:12


We'd like to invite you to come along to our community consultation sessions this month to discuss the future of Mahara as you may have some questions and would like to share your opinion. Three sessions are planned to cover different time zones:

  • Session 1: 16 May 2023, 14:00-15:00 NZST (Australia, Pacific, East Asia)
  • Session 2: 17 May 2023, 19:00-20:00 NZST (Africa, Europe, Asia)
  • Session 3: 18 May 2023, 7:00-8:00 NZST (Africa, Europe, Americas)

You can also provide feedback via email if you prefer or reply in this forum thread.

Thank you


Kristina Hoeppner's profile picture
Posts: 4746

23 May 2023, 21:16


Thank you to everyone who's participated in our first round of community consultations last week. The second part is scheduled for the week of 5 June 2023. In this session, we will present a proposed pricing structure and invite feedback from community members.

There are three sessions on offer. Please sign up for one of them as their structure will be similar.

The links below go to the time zone converter:

  • Session 1: 6 June 2023, 15:00-16:00 NZST (Australia, Pacific, East Asia)
  • Session 2: 7 June 2023, 19:00-20:00 NZST (Africa, Europe, Asia)
  • Session 3: 8 June 2023, 7:00-8:00 NZST (Africa, Europe, Americas)

What would help us a lot is some information from your organisation so we have more concrete data available. Not all Mahara sites are registered and thus are not sending back anonymised data, and for sites that are registered, we are only collecting total accounts, but not a couple of other numbers. Therefore, to make the modeling more accurate, it would be great if you send me an email with the following information:

  • Organisation / URL of your Mahara site so we can check if your site is already registered
  • Total number of accounts
  • Number of accounts that have never been logged into
  • Number of accounts that have been logged into in the last 3 years

You can find these numbers as site administrator in 'Admin menu → People → People search'. Click the 'Advanced options' button and then change the option in the drop-down menu 'Last login'. The collecting of these numbers is no indication that these will play a role in the final proposal, but by knowing how these numbers differ across organisations, we can narrow down our modeling and make it more accurate.

Thank you


Kristina Hoeppner's profile picture
Posts: 4746

13 July 2023, 16:25


In April, we announced in the forum post ‘Resetting the foundations for a sustainable future of Mahara' how the Mahara project was changing the way code was going to be made available. We outlined the reasons why a change was required, and considerations for how the Mahara project be funded going forward. We invited consultation with the Mahara community on potential funding models.

We would like to thank everybody who has engaged in the consultation sessions since. In these we highlighted that Catalyst firmly believes in Free Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) and is not planning on a change in license from the current GNU GPL v.3. The freedoms to inspect, customise, and build on the core code remain.

However, since there are not many regular community contributors, most of the work had to be performed by Catalyst, and over the last 16+ years we have volunteered hundreds of thousands of hours to the community, which is not sustainable for the project any more, and we needed to look for a different solution to continue with the Mahara project.

That noted, we acknowledge that the charging of a fee for access to the core code is a major shift in how the Mahara project will operate in the future. It is however, a necessary step to ensure that the software can continue to be sustainably developed, providing benefits to everyone in the community.

Selected model

One of the goals of reviewing how the project can be funded more sustainably was to find a way that would involve all organisations using Mahara and to share costs more equitably. Over the years, Catalyst has implemented and explored a number of business strategies to support an open source project, in particular offering professional services, such as development, support, and managed services; offering premium services, such as the Extended Security Support; bringing partners on board through the Partner Programme; and crowd funding. However, none of these strategies resulted in sustained and continued funds to come in for the Mahara project, which necessitated looking for a different strategy.

We have now settled on an annual paid subscription model for organisations. The model also caters for supporting individual contributors. We took community feedback into consideration with this model, striking the balance between anticipated financial viability, organisations’ use, and the fact that this is a software only, not a managed services model.

The main elements of the subscription for organisations are:

  • Banded model: Pricing is based on usage bands to allow for adding of a certain number of additional accounts without incurring an immediate update in fees.
  • Based on the number of active accounts over the preceding 12 months (or an estimated use over the next 12 months for organisations not yet using Mahara) instead of the total number of registered accounts. In this, we acknowledge that usage varies over time and also that some organisations create accounts automatically that are then not always used.
  • Standard subscription and enterprise subscription options to cater to organisations requiring additional support.
  • Self-hosting or support by a service provider are still possible to give organisations flexibility and continued sustainability for their operation.
  • License remains GNU GPL v. 3, giving you the freedoms to inspect, customise, and build on. 

The components of each subscription are outlined on the subscription page.

Way forward

The subscription takes effect immediately for those wanting to work with Mahara 23.04 and / or receive the latest minor point updates for all other supported versions of Mahara. We are finalising the subscription contract terms and accompanying information for the website and will publish them as soon as possible. You can email [email protected] if you have questions.

Benefits of this change to the community

We see far reaching benefits for the community with the Mahara project moving to a subscription model. If supported by the community, it will allow for the sustained, continued development of Mahara, making it possible to have a defined roadmap over time and embark on larger projects that benefit everyone. It will allow organisations and contributors a more clearly defined path to have their opinion heard about the future of Mahara and influence the roadmap.

It will still be possible to contribute changes and new features directly when they are approved by the Mahara product team. In addition, infrastructural changes that are often beyond the possibilities of a single organisation can be undertaken.

To be clear, organisations will still continue to be able to self host Mahara, or work with a service provider of their choice as that is also a freedom that is important to us. We understand that organisations have varying jurisdictional and data protection requirements and thus need to use software that offers them the freedom to decide where their data is hosted and who has access to it.

Thank you


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