back to article Big Blue urged to open Notes and Domino

Ian Tree, the chief architect at IT consultancy Hadleigh Marshall Netherlands b.v. of Eindhoven, The Netherlands, has some free advice for IBM's Software Group: Take the Notes/Domino groupware stack open source with a community-developed programming model. The idea is to keep the Notes client and the Domino server relevant in a …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    yah, good luck with that

    OTOH a community driven "Notes Lite" that didn't require a core 2 duo and 4GB of RAM just to start up might be nice.

  2. Matt White

    An interesting idea but noone really wants it

    Although it's an interesting idea, the feedback we've seen on the community IdeaJam has been pretty overwhelmingly against open sourcing Domino. The way that Domino is going at the moment seems pretty good without a massive change in the way it is managed and developed:

  3. Dave Harris
    Thumb Down

    It wouldn't work

    As much as I respect Ian's action on this, it's been raised several times and nothing has changed that makes me think it'd be more likely to work now than before.

    For a start, IBM introduce changes to the on-disk structure to the NSF with pretty much every release (R4 - ODS20, R5 - ODS 41 - R7, ND8 - ODS 47 & 48, ND8.5 - ODS 50), which is potentially a rate too rapid for open source developers to keep up with.

    Secondly, the encryption algorithms in Notes are currently proprietary and I really don't see IBM wanting to divulge that (nor the NSA wanting them too). Incidentally, Notes was one of the first products commercially available with a public key infrastructure for authentication, way ahead of the game.

    Finally, I think there something like 20 million lines of code in the basic product (client & server), which runs on windows, mac & linux (client) and Linux, AIX, Solaris, iSeries, zSeries and windows (server) - I simply don't see that an open source project can manage that scale of project, and still maintain the backwards compatibility and stability for which Notes and Domino are respected.

    For more, where this proposal is being debated by the Notes & Domino community, see

    A thumbs down

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Good idea

    Notes has a fundamental problem in that the interface is a steaming great turd. We've all seen worse, but not in software that is so often foisted on end users who complain about it, and even initiate expensive projects just to avoid having to use it (I count four here, plus a fifth successfully implemented which scrapes data from Domino just so the users don't have to log in to it. Doesn't even manipulate it, just extracts it and drops it in another app)

    With Open Source, connectors for other interfaces will appear, freeing the end user from the utterly appalling client (yes, fanboys, 8 is much better, but it still looks, smells and feels like the result of a Friday night on the Jalfrezi and a couple of jars of Tiger. With previous versions being more like prawn Vindaloo and 9 pints of Wife-Beater).

    Integration with more pleasant software is the only hope Notes/Domino has left, and Open Source is probably the only way this might happen. All strength to them!

  5. Mark Cathcart

    Not likely

    I spent 2-years on assignment to IBM SWG in the late 1990's evangelizing open source and Linux, and 2-years, 5-years ago as a spokesperson and lead technical consultant for IBM with the IBM Europe, EU PR Team.

    This is a noble request, and possibly a good reason to do it. Let me tell you why it won't happen though. Notes/Domino is a huge piece of code contributed to by 1000's over a period of 20-years, as such IBM cannot attest to their ability to grant free and open access to all the source code. Some of the code will no doubt come from business partners and others who granted IBM a license to use the code, but will not have given IBM the rights to freely distribute their code.

    IBM is very unlikely to spend the money going back over all the code and licenses to make this happen. Better would be to ask for a new Notes codebase, such as the Notes 8 eclipse code to be released, or for IBM to work with the community to open up the process to create new Notes/Domino APIs etc.

    Good luck though. I assume we can rely on el-reg to do follow-up work on this and let us know what IBM's response is.

    Penguin: because it will freeze in hell before this happens...

  6. Anonymous Coward


    Ain't gonna happen. Would be the most embarrassing load of junk seen since the inadvertent release of the NT source code way back when. OTOH, it *could* be a way to destroy the street cred of Ray Ozzie once and for all, so maybe... :-)

  7. DJ
    Dead Vulture

    Don't listen to them IBM

    Notes and Domino are the biggest pile of dog turd I've had the misfortune to work against.

    Keep them locked in until they die..

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Until Lotus 8, the client generally was inferior to competitors. The collaboration "Teamrooms" are pretty much a joke-- poorly conceived (thanks to the dim thinking of Ray Ozzie (yes, he got plenty rich, we look forward to similar dim thinking but great personal enrichment at Microsoft)) with Teamrooms good mostly as a place to store large documents.

    You clear forgot to mention the demise of ancillary products such as Lotus WordPro.

    One thing Lotus Notes is good for is making the encryption mostly transparent to the user. If it were possible to add key management to an open Lotus maybe email would finally have a bit of privacy built in.

  9. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    What the customer wants

    IBM has done very well with its enterprise customers by giving them want they want: Deutsche Bank got a new version of Notes for OS/2 even though this wasn't initially planned. Large companies have vastly different expectations from their vendors than access to the code. Enterprise does not update frequently and often.

    IBM will probably have to react to the changed environment, especially Microsoft's Sharepoint developments, but it is already doing this by its engagement with OpenOffice.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "It is far more likely ... distribute it for free with Linuxes from Red Hat and Novell".

    Nice fantasy, but to inject just a touch of reality, why would Novell freely distribute a messaging system that would dig the grave for their own product, GroupWise? Not bloody likely.

  11. Ian Michael Gumby

    Tree is living in a fantasy world.

    Sorry but IBM will do thing if they can see a way to leverage the product to make money.

    To quote Tree from the article:

    "Over recent years we have seen the decreasing traction of the Domino product line among enterprise customers, lower conquest rates in small enterprises, and a lack of penetration in the SMB market," Tree writes. "This decline in position of the product has continued despite clear IBM commitment to the ongoing development, marketing and support of the product line. Competitors in the messaging and collaboration space are increasingly applying the 'legacy' tag to the product line and winning conversion projects that result in more expensive and less functional solutions for the existing customer base.


    Tree is drawing a conclusion that it incorrect. IBM fails to win in the SMB marketplace because IBM doesn't know how to sell in the SMB marketplace. Were Tree to have spent any time with IBM's S&D organization, it would become apparent that the SMB market is a tough nut for IBM to crack across *all* divisions and the pillars of SWG.

    The cultural barrier that has to be bridged for IBM to succeed in the SMB marketplace would cause a corporate wide revolution. Remember that Steve Mills is a product of IBM and does not have the mindset of how to deal with the smaller customer who can't afford to spend enough money to warrant a dedicated IBM team.

    Calling for a product to be released as Open Source because its now perceived as legacy software is insane.

    If we look at what IBM did put out in to the open source community, we see Cloudscape (Now Derby and JavaDB) and Eclipse. (A version based on Eclipse is sold as RAD under the Rational Pillar)

    We could hold a separate set of discussions on IBM's involvement in Derby and Eclipse, however that would take away from the Lotus question.

    With respect to Lotus, yes, its getting long in the tooth. Companies have a choice on how to spend their IT dollar. If they feel that Lotus offers a value, they will use Lotus. If they think exchange offers a value, they'll use exchange. If they feel that they can get along with an alternative solution, they will use that.

    The key isn't making Lotus an open source product, but either IBM enhances Lotus to show its value to their non-core market (Aligned and Integrated accounts), or the Open Source community determines what are the benefits of Lotus and how to build a better mouse trap.

    In the end, Tree's efforts show that there is an opportunity for a Lotus replacement, however there isn't enough interest in the open source community to build something from the ground up.

    But hey! What do I know? Its not like I *worked* for IBM. (Oh snap! I did. :-( )


    I chose the stop sign because one should not live in the fantasy world of expecting big blue to make generous contributions when they can still make a buck on their products.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Notes Sucks

    Every morning my 10s of thousands of co-workers and I wait 5 or 10 minutes for our notes client to start so we can check my email. We have tons of data that should be in speedy modern relational databases that is instead trapped in Notes "databases" which are pretty much equivalent to a pile of papers on the floor. Let Notes die already. The world will be a better place without it.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've got a better idea...

    ... burn the lot. Notes is the most backward, miserable piece of software I've had the misfortune to have to support. Version 6 is version 5 with added bells and whistles. Version 5 is version 4.5b with knobs on.

    The out of office thing sucked. The time zones would cock up twice a year. The interface was counter intuitive and written by a monkey on crack. Oh, and once I wondered why a newly installed Notes client was taking ages to open - I did a NETSTAT -na from the command line, and the evil thing had happily opened an HTTPS connection to some IBM server in Colorado - God knows what it was sucking down.

    And don't get me started on their knowledge base - "The Notes Team is aware of this issue. April 12, 1990"

  14. Kevin Mort

    Troll parade, abbreviated

    Well at least we only muster three (grumpy, DJ and one AC) who are of the bash Notes crowd that generally haven't used the product since like R4 and just like to make noise.

    The "truth" you speak of is fallacy. Growing revenues, share do not indicate a stagnant, legacy product no matter how much Microsoft pays it's partners to say it.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Plus ca change

    Never ceases to amaze me how many times the old lines are totted out from both sides when notes is mentioned. No-one seems to be able to get their head around the fact that it is not an email system except by accident. Notes handles documents, that's it...Ok so it is possible for that document to include all the information needed for it to look and act like an email but that is a sideshow compared to the main function of...handling documents.

    I may be a Notes-centric person but even I admit that if all you want is email then there are many many more appropriate products out there, but if you want some shared databases with a bit of Workflow behind them, or you want half a dozen different email addresses to all point to one location which can then automatically handle them and resond according to content or original address or you want a low-cost Catalogue for an online shop or.....Notes can handle it. It may not be the best at any one function but like the PC, with a little work it can do just about anything. THAT is what it is intended for.

    As for AC @20:37, yes R6 was appalling by almost any standard, but then again Exchange of the same era wasn't much cop either was it. Notes is now in R8 (R8.5 beta) and if you don't like the way it looks, then design your own look and feel, it isn't hard.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Great Idea !

    I love notes - when its used properly - knowledge management. You can store knowledge. You can take it with you . You can protect it easily.

    I use Wiki's a lot - but when Im dealing with mobile work forces notes is unparalleled !

    Replicating databases enable me to ensure information isnt lost. Security mkes sure it isnt stolen. It can run for years on laptops with minimal support !

    agreed it sucks for email ! but for its strengths it rocks. I used to run it at home - but IBM are difficult to deal with on a personal level. They dont want to know individuals. I would have all my family and friends running notes databases if they werent so arrogent. Open sourcing it would solve that problem and might cause a slow uptake of notes in its core area again !

    Go for it !

    For those that dont like it. I think that means you dont understand what its for !

    Dont use a spade to go ski-ing guys !

  17. Ian Wilson

    Sorry chaps, but I use notes now and it is a pile of turd

    All those defending notes now, just stop. It is a piece of rubbish - in fact its easier to use the web based interface than the thick client interface. We use notes at my current company and I haven't come across a good word about it. Sure the document management system is good, but why force email, calender and IM on us because of one good feature....its rubbish, if the open source community can sort it out then good luck to them. The interface is about as slick as Win31 now looks.

    Utter rubbish.

  18. drew shobbrook
    Thumb Up

    i agree

    i agree 100% .. they could also look at giving it away to sites with less than 50 employees

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @2ACs (21:21 GMT and 21:41 GMT)

    You can cry yourselves hoarse till the cows come home that "it is more than an email client" or "it is not really meant to be an email client" -- it doesn't matter.

    99% (or more) of people who have seen the LN/Domino combo have seen it as a purely email system, and that is how it will be judged. That is how I judge it.

    All the fancy sync logic (which I agree is good) doesn't do squat for email, where items are not subject to change once created -- think IMAP or even better think NNTP.

    All I see is a totally fscked-up system that acquired "sort by subject line" in 2005, for X's sake... [see last para of the "mail" section, and note web page title and the date also...].

    Yes, 2005 was 3 years ago, but "sort by subject line" (without have to code it yourself) is a heck of a lot older than that in ANY email client.

    I know people who seem to beat themselves off on the amazing technological marvel that is Notes, but when it comes to email this is nothing but scatophilia...

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Lotus as "Legacy"

    He's right. People are putting the legacy tag on lotus installs, and I understand why. In the last three multi-national corps I've worked in recently which have Notes as their email/colab systems, all have been on v6.5 with no intention of upgrading. While I'll use what's in front of me, just a straw poll of the people who have to use it day to day, very few people, apart from the sysadmins maybe, actually like it. I once found the instructions for installing the notes connector for outlook, I had people queuing at my desk to find out how to do it... If people will do that for an MS product...

    Will open sourcing it help? Possibly from a cost/install POV perhaps. Maybe if some enterprising OSS people created a new frontend that didn't attract such sites as "lotus notes sucks"

  21. Nic Brough

    @Kevin Mort

    >Well at least we only muster three (grumpy, DJ and one AC) who are of the bash Notes crowd that generally haven't used the product since like R4 and just like to make noise.

    Fair enough if your "bash Notes crowd" was a horde of noisy users who haven't used it since R4. But it isn't. The crowd in question certainly includes them, but the vast majority of it are on later releases, up to and including 8 (an improvement, as one AC already mentioned) and it is still almost universally reviled by the end user. Also, this crowd is not just a small fraction of end users - it's almost every single one of them.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Have you driven Notes lately?

    Is there any topic that invites more whining from people who haven't seen the product in 5 years? I hate MS Office, but I don't feel the need to continue bashing Office 2003. Even the most rabid Notes haters in my company have had to admit that Notes 8 is very good. If you think that GMail is the perfect e-mail client then use the DWA Lite mode and don't bother with the Eclipse client. Personally, I think that the GMail UI is horrible.

    IBM has had to provide backward compatibility to all the large organizations with thousands of R5 and earlier databases. This is why the excessive feature/bloat still exists. I have seen version 8.5 and it continues to add impressive new features as well as UI improvements. Notes excels at managing unstructured data and as a secure document management system. If you aren't using those features stick to the lite web client for e-mail.

  23. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    RE: Plus ca change

    I disagree. I have worked with and used every version of Exchange/Outlook and Notes/Domino from version 4 of the client, and I can with a clear conscience state that Exchange was and is a superior email solution in every version. Sure, as you say, Domino/Notes is a document storage solution - well, actually it's a database with an a torrid documentation storage solution and truly awful email. I even look back and remember all the security hassles of Windows servers, the virus alerts and the continual updates, and I STILL would NOT have swapped it for Domino/Notes by choice. I have worked with Groupwise with Blackberry BES solutions and - even though I didn't enjoy it - I'd still rather grit my teeth and go with Groupwise over Domino/Notes. Frankly, apart from the avid coders who'd probably like to rake through the code simply for interest's sake, I can't see anyone in the Linux community wanting Domino/Notes in the current state.

    What I want is for M$ to really get in with the community and release Exchange on Linux (pref on Integrity so I can have one cluster of servers replace 30+ Windoze Exchange instances), but then that's unlikely as M$ would lose out on all that Windows server licensing revenue that Exchange drags through.

  24. Christopher


    Obiously not using Notes 8, I admit before Notes 7 the interface was heavily outdated and hidious but the new one is much improved (Apart from the preferences which is still hidious, symantec/mcafee making 8 start up very slowly and the calendar which many users did not like as they want the older layout). The web interface is definatly a strong point for Lotus Domino, the next update will give the web interface a well needed overhaul which will improve it further and I think by then there will be little reason to need the client if you use it purely for email and calendars.

    Although outlook is nice I can't stand the fact it can't open emails in tabs within outlook itself rather than opening new windows, they have tabs to the left for everything like the calendar etc... why can't it do it for everything else (if this is possible and I am missing a simple tick box I would love to know as its one of my biggest annoyances)

  25. Rajbir

    Dispelling a few doubts

    OK, a few corrections about the last few paras - although unimportant to this particular article, but important for the overall picture of IBM.

    IBM cannot open source AIX. The license comes from the bad old AT&T days, much before Solaris got it from AT&T and that license does not allow IBM to open source AIX. Not that I am sure open-sourcing it is such a good idea. After all, some people want an operating system that has a fixed roadmap - which promises binary compatibility and all that bla-bla. There are other people who don't want all that, and they can well choose linux, which again, IBM supports (IBM has a full fledged team working on all parts of linux) on all of its server lines including z, p, i and x.

    Second - yes IBM does stick to its patenting, and files more patents than any other company. In fact, the number two and number three (which includes Hitachi) in the list added up do not file as many patents as IBM. In spite of this, IBM happens to be one of the most active companies to lobby doing away with patents altogether. So IBM's standpoint usually is that they are against patenting, however, as long as patenting exists, and there are others who might sue IBM for patenting, IBM will continue patenting. Of course, most companies these days do not patent to sue other companies, they patent so that they are not sued by some weird startup for inadvertantly violating some patent. Because if you don't patent something, someone else will.

    If you have read in the news, IBM recently urged USPTO to allow corporate review of paetnts to reduce their burden, and also improve the quality of patents that get through.

  26. Jose Luis Perez
    Thumb Down

    Let it die

    Let me and my 5000 workmates be freed from using the worst piece of software ever created.

    Not a single good word across the organization. That surely means something. Sure that IT people are very happy about the server/client capabilities, but it is the end users who actually waste tons of time because of the crap.


  27. Kevin Mort

    @Nic Brough

    Almost every single one, eh? Yea that explains the now 17 or so straight quarters of growth in the platform.

    I don't expect everyone to like it, just as I know not everyone likes Exchange/Outlook either. My last org switched to Outlook from Notes and productivity went to the floor. Why? Because the MSFT flunkies didn't bother to actually figure out what all Notes/Domino was being used for, nor did they understand the concept of messaging based workflow.

    Every platform has it's critics and it's champions. You like what you like and I"ll like what I like. I use webmail, Outlook and Notes every day. Outlook has a nice look to it, but I'll take Notes for functionality any day, not to mention that 8 is a huge UI improvement.

  28. Geoff Webber

    so what options do I have

    Many years ago I worked for a fire service as a Notes developer using R3. With very little coding skills I converted a number of DOS based systems running on single PC's into shared databases that could be accessed by any user (with differing levels of permissions on a field by field basis - where necessary) anywhere within the organisation.

    We even considered making the hydrant register available in appliances via mobile PC's. One advantage of this would be that every appliance in the county would have access to details for every hydrant (location, size of main, pressure and flow etc) instead of paper cards just for the station where that appliance was currently deployed.

    The only reason this project was not implemented was cost.

    I also converted the following systems.

    Training and personnel

    Fleet maintenance

    Fire safety (including stored images of plans and certificates)

    The main benefit was that all relevant users would have access to the data on their machine - regardless of location - due to Notes replication.

    And all of this available via a single application - the Notes desktop.

    I am in the process of applying for a job at another organisation that has similar requirements.

    Can anyone point me at another development tool where I can create systems to cover a wide range of differing business needs that I can make available to remote users WAN, LAN and Web. without the need to learn a new coding language.

    PS I know about .net and sql databases. I work for a firm that use these tools currently and its a slow process to get anything delivered. I would be willing to bet I could create a Notes app to handle (lets say) bookings for a caravan park quicker than a .net / sql developer

  29. matt vorwald
    Thumb Up

    neat idea

    i would like to see it happen,,, it would be a nice alternative to exchange. We use Novell Groupwise but i would really give open dominoes a close look.

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