The Omidyar Network is shutting down Omidyar.net (ON). This online, self-managed community launched in 2004 and quickly drew thousands of people who organized themselves into dozens of groups. Here are some stats on the ON community:
There are 19,368 individual users organized into 427 groups. They've created 8,346 discussion topics, posted 190,245 comments and 12,440 workspace pages.
Over the years the Network used the ON Community to inform some funding decisions, to find people with similar interests, and simply as a platform for community building. On July 19, 2007 the Network decided to shut down the ON platform and allow a community board to determine where to go next. There are many unknowns, but one thing is clear: by December 31, 2007, the technology platform that hosts the current ON communities will close to public access. The full timeline for the transition is online here.
Why is it shutting down? Not clear from any public statement. The public statements are all about the positive effects of moving this direction - but there is no reason given for why this or why now. So, those reasons might be cost or a sense that the community is no longer of value to the Network organization. Perhaps its just another "time-limited" philanthropic investment ("three years and out"), in which the funder decides time is up, regardless of whether their partners agree, there are clear opportunities for vested interests to continue their work, or any shared goals have been achieved. Perhaps the Network believes the investment failed, and its time to end it? There are some indications in the comments that staff from Omidyar Network are moving on (are they being let or go leaving by choice? - this is not clear from public information)
I'm not an insider to the goals laid out in the beginning, so I can't say if they were met or not. Given recent media attention to the willingness of a few foundations to acknowledge failure, it seems appropriate to ask why the platform is being turned off and whether or not goals were met? From the Network's point of view (not the community's) was the platform and its groups, conversations, projects a success or a failure, and how does that assessment factor in to the decision to close it down?
What is the community's response? Skimming through pages and pages of user comments, there is clearly a mix of annoyance, respect, gratitude, and disgust. Many people have jumped in to talk about how to make it work - by sub-communities, by issue, by platform. Others decry the time they've wasted, while some comment on how they'd be willing to pay for the service. Some wonder if the content they've created will be secure. Others rue the loss, but wish the community luck.
The public discussion and the interactive, community based planning for transition is impressive. It shows the power of reaching out, engaging, and sharing power. However, the Network's reasons for action are invisible to the public. Why now? Was it a success or a failure? That's what I'd like to know.