New features in Nextcloud Hub 6 include optional AI features, with Nextcloud’s Ethical AI ratings which provide information on the privacy and data sovereignty implications of the various options.
Saturday morning at the Nextcloud Conference in Berlin, Nextcloud announced the release of Nextcloud Hub 6, which is the latest and greatest version of the company’s collaboration platform that was first released in January 2020.
At the time of that first release, Hub’s distinguishing feature was its integration of the OnlyOffice productivity suite, which allowed it to compete with Office 365 and Google Docs. Since then, its capabilities have expanded greatly enough that Office 365 and Docs are now eating its proverbial dust, and with this release Hub is looking a lot like I imagine Microsoft’s SaaS platform would look if it were on steroids.
Actually, now that I think about it, it’s better than MS 365 Business Standard on steroids, because it’s an honest-to-goodness free and open source product, licensed under the AGPL-3.0, meaning you don’t have to be a Fortune 500 company with deep pockets to use it. If you’re just a little tech saavy, you can install it on a computer that you designate to be a server and the next thing you know, your family has it’s own portal, just like the multinational corporations have for their employees.
Granted, you wouldn’t be Nextcloud’s target user — that would be those multinational corporations with their needs for employee and customer portals — but because it’s FOSS you can use it at home without spending any money, and because it’s not all that difficult to use, a surprisingly large number of people do just that. Up until Twitter went south, people used to frequently tell me they used Nextcloud to fill personal needs.
Think about it. Wouldn’t it be cool to tell the kids that they can go to such-and-such page on the family portal to find out when they’ll receive their next allowance payment, and how much allowance you paid them year-to-date? You could even have an online form for them to fill out when they want permission to stay out past curfew or to do something that would normally be out of bounds.
Open-source is also why big companies have been increasingly adopting Nextcloud, but not because of the free-beer aspect (again, big companies can afford all the beer they want). The enterprise likes open-source because, unlike with proprietary software from the likes of Microsoft and Google, they can be sure that the open-source software they use isn’t mining data about their business practices when it’s supposed to be working for them.
Not only that, whether they’re hosting it themselves or paying a service to host it for them, they can make sure their data remains in-country, which is not only good policy, in much of the world it’s the law.
What’s New in Nextcloud Hub 6
Across the board, added features and capabilities have been added to the apps that make-up Next Cloud Hub, starting with some features for those who have to spend time in virtual meetings, which is most of us these days. Examples would include a feature that displays the speaking time of individual participants, which is especially good for moderators who want to make sure that everyone attending the meeting is heard. In addition, there’s now a warning when a meeting is approaching the 60-minute mark, which can be a hard stop for some participants.
Another new feature lets users snooze emails, chat messages, and the like for the duration of a meeting, and will remind users to re-enable these snoozed features when the meeting is over. Transcripts of calls can be created, and actions that were discussed in a meeting can be tracked in call summaries.
AI also plays a prominent role in Nextcloud Assistant, a large language model that can be used to summarize text or email threads, change writing to be formal or relaxed, translate chat messages, and more. All AI features are optional and administrators have a choice between various on-premises and SaaS solutions. Going a step further, Nextcloud’s Ethical AI rating provides information on the privacy and data sovereignty implications of the various options.
Nextcloud Files, basically Nextcloud’s file manager for accessing, sharing, and collaborating on files, introduces an improved file picker, an easier-to-use file-sharing design and flow, as well as versioning improvements that add the ability to compare file versions in the user interface. According to Nextcloud, file upload performance has been improved significantly in the platform’s mobile and desktop clients, which also introduce image viewing, editing improvements, and tighter integration with other Nextcloud mobile apps.
Nextcloud Tables now allows live links to resources within a table and introduces support for multiple independent views on a table, with fine-grained filtering abilities and individual access rights.
Particularly important to developers: all APIs are now documented through OpenAPI, making it easier to connect from a variety of third-party applications to Nextcloud for storing and sharing files, accessing metadata like comments, or reading and sending chat messages. Nextcloud Talk introduces webhook-based bots, allowing integration with a wide variety of external applications.
Developers can also now build Nextcloud apps in languages other than PHP. Apps can be written in any REST-supporting language, and a convenience library was built for Python, with two example apps. The new architecture offers significant stability, security, API longevity, and scalability benefits.
Wanna kick the tires on this one? You can download it now.