Restore EteSync (Calendar/Contacts Sync)

EteSync maintainer here. The project is not dead. The latest release of the server happened two days ago, and the hosted service is actively maintained/fixed/upgraded as needed.

As I said on Github, I personally don’t have enough time to actively implement new features for all of the platforms so development has slowed down.

I agree that when it comes to EteSync Notes we’ve probably been overtaken in terms of the quality of the product (as in, other products may offer a better experience). Though I think that in terms of contacts, calendars, and tasks it’s great and rock solid. I and many others use it daily for that.

I think the number of open issues is a poor indication of anything. The fact that we don’t automatically close old tickets doesn’t mean much. This service works on Android, iOS, Windows, Linux, and macOS for thousands of customers (probably many more, we don’t track our customers or have analytics), so a few bug reports over the span of a few years is nothing. There are a lot of different platforms and some of them (not necessarily EteSync) are buggy. Often times the problem is actually user error.

I agree that the iOS experience is not great, I’ve said it multiple times, the problem is Apple and its buggy and restricted platform. Many of the things we want to do just can’t be done, and there are many limitations in place. It actually works well for many people, but doesn’t work for others.

As for the proposal:

  • It pains my heart to see EteSync Notes removed as a recommendation, but I think it’s fair, as there are probably better solutions out there. Though I’d reconsider recommending closed source solutions.
  • Calendar/contacts IMHO, are still the best product out there. Including on the desktop.

I think the number of open issues is a poor indication of anything. The fact that we don’t automatically close old tickets doesn’t mean much. This service works on Android, iOS, Windows, Linux, and macOS for thousands of customers (probably many more, we don’t track our customers or have analytics), so a few bug reports over the span of a few years is nothing.

I use EteSync on four of those five platforms, and three of those (iOS, Windows, Mac) have serious reliability and-or functionality issues. In all cases the issues had either been posted on Git or I posted a few myself … only one ever got any dev response, the others haven’t been fixed. That’s not “nothing,” IMO, especially for things as crucial as contacts and calendar, one generally needs rock solid reliability for those in day-to-day life.

The OP originally had links to a bunch of those serious issues but the forum has a two link limit. Some of the examples I wanted to include are:

  • On iOS & Desktop the events I add / changes I make to the calendar simply disappear and don’t sync, with no error or anything…this happens about once a week.
  • On desktop the DAV bridge is flaky which causes events / contacts to disappear and reappear constantly in Thunderbird (tested in other clients, same thing)
  • On desktop there are also regular SSL cert issues (separate from the above)
  • On iOS contacts randomly get duplicated
  • On iOS to sync you have to open, wait, and click a tiny button in the corner, instead of just…auto syncing when the app opens.

EteSync isn’t reliable on those platforms. Android is the only platform where it works pretty much as advertised and expected, hence my original suggestion to leave that up.

There are a lot of different platforms and some of them (not necessarily EteSync) are buggy. Often times the problem is actually user error.

If the problem was user error it’d be appreciated if the dev replied to bug reports or improved documentation to let the users know what to do differently … in absence of that, waving away serious issues with “it’s user error” is 0% helpful (and pretty dismissive, IMO).

So, respectfully, I have to disagree here and say the tons and tons of open issues on Git are accurate to my experiences on Windows, iOS, and macOS … frustratingly unreliable.

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How about a blog tutorial on how to self-host your own Etesync Etebase server so that contact, calendar, and tasks synchronization can all be E2EE? Then you can help your friends and family members migrate away from the evil g00gle and Apple trash-surveillance sync services.

I think you’re underestimating the amount of time and effort it takes to reply to bug reports and provide the hands-on support you are hoping for. I’ve done that for years, replying to every user report, helping them figure it out, and fixing the issue. After 10,000 of those, where 9,980 are user errors you earn the right to say “often times the problem is actually user error”.

Either way, real issue or not, the expectation of having me drop everything to help you figure that out is unreasonable at best.

At the end of the day, EteSync is serving thousands of (presumably) happy customers that are not facing any major issues. Many of our customers have been using the service for years with no issue.
I realize (and sorry to hear) that your experience my not have been the same, but what you’re asking for, which is me giving you hands on support is just not something that I can provide.

With that being said, EteSync is open source software! I’d be more than happy to accept fixes for the aforementioned issues, and improvements to the guides and documentation…


Trying to better understand here, you’re on a privacy forum using a proprietary surveillance operating system made by a company that harvests your data for profit, right? If you actually valued privacy, you wouldn’t be complaining about issues with iFruit OS but instead would be using technology which respects you. I genuinely want the best privacy that this world has to offer for you, me, and everyone. Don’t you?

I’ve been running my own Etesync server for myself & some friends, and we’ve been using it with the correct hardware/software combinations for about 5 years now, maybe longer, so I would suggest anyone on this forum give Etesync a try but by running it on Android paired with a Linux desktop running the Kontact or Evolution applications & it works really well. I can’t be the only one here who thinks “What would Snowden do?” and we know he wouldn’t use anything iFruit :apple:

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Either way, real issue or not, the expectation of having me drop everything to help you figure that out is unreasonable at best.

I never said that, and I never expected that. This is an absurd mis-characterization of what I wrote. I simply expected the software to work as described and advertised on the front page of the website:

Easy to use and open source - it seamlessly integrates with your existing apps so you won’t even notice you are using it!

When it did not, I followed the recommendation in the FAQ to report issues. Those issues did not get addressed or fixed…and now I’m being criticized by the main dev on a totally separate forum for…reporting issues as recommended and hoping for fixes? Wtf?

I don’t think PrivacyGuides should be recommending unreliable software without a disclaimer. Hence why I made this post after nearly two years of navigating EteSync stuff.

If you can’t provide support for EteSync I get it, time is limited, but in that case IMO the site should say “EteSync is provided as is with limited support” or something like that. Telling people in the FAQ to take issues to Git…and then calling customers who do so “unreasonable.” Come on, man. This ain’t it.

I have to use macOS / Windows and an iPad for work (own business, so own devices). I also use Android (Graphene). The hardware and software I use do not run on Linux. I need my calendar and contacts on these devices.

Life is life and doesn’t always hew to our lofty ideals…so I do the best I can within the circumstances. You know how it is…

Apologies for the back to back posts!

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I wish i could report otherwise but I can confirm the struggle. I have tried also to self host etesync but no matter what I did I couldn’t get an admin account that allowed me to log in. The github issue had been outstanding for many months.

@tasn I have all respect for the amount of work it takes and really appreciate the it, but this doesn’t mean that it is stable. It’s the same we have with Nextcloud, we like the effort they make but it doesn’t mean the product is recommendable. We try to give people an approachable way into privacy not an experience that will discourage them and make people give up. There are only few people like myself who like to thinkr and spend ridiculous amount of time and effort in this. I must say throughout the last years I kinda have been slowing this down too. Things should be convenient and easy in usage. We cannot confirm this is the case with Etesync at this point. I wish it was and love to see it become. It’s definitely not a vendetta against your product.

For those that actually want privacy in their lives, how can this be added back as a recommendation with the note to not use on Apple products?

Hey @donotspamplz, thank you for the kind words.

@ph00lt0, hard to tell what issue you were experiencing without more information. Though yeah, self-hosting on different Linux boxes with a variety of different setups is very hard, and I don’t have time to help everyone set things up. The community has been great with helping people, but it’s also not a good use of their time. There is a community docker image that works great, why not use that?

Unreliable for you, not globally. There are many people who use EteSync daily without any issue.

You are not being criticized, I’m just explaining why while even though you reported an issue (thanks for that!), I didn’t jump on a debugging session with you trying to figure what went wrong and how to fix it for you.

As for why I’m even engaging here? I should really stop, I don’t have time for this. Though I first learned about this thread from the EteSync community, and I took this opportunity to clarify things. Again, I’m sorry for the issues you are experiencing issues, though the fact that you are experiencing some doesn’t mean everyone is…

Yeah…I can’t emphasize enough that I really, really, really want EteSync (or something like it) to succeed. But stuff like calendar changes disappearing has caused actual, real-world issues in my life this year (twice!), and that’s why I caution against a full recommendation.

Gotta love gatekeeping.

The iOS app is poor in terms of UX, but I’ve actually had more trouble with the desktop bridge (Windows / macOS, can’t speak to Linux) in terms of reliability. It is the platform that most frequently doesn’t sync calendar changes - a serious issue. Android is the only platform where things worked basically as expected, hence my original suggestion to keep that recommendation.

I have never disputed that.

Right, I don’t dispute that either.

I simply said that: based on my own multi-year experience with several platforms, the many others reporting the same issues as me over that time span (on Git, Reddit, and even here!), and the total lack of development / support on those issues, EteSync recommendations should have a disclaimer that platforms other than Android may have issues and don’t have active development / support.

I do not think that is an unreasonable appraisal of the situation. I appreciate you discussing this, but nothing you’ve said here is at odds with that summary … if anything you’ve confirmed it by saying that (a) iOS has issues and (b) it’s unreasonable to expect support.

I did actually used Docker tho, so that argument doesn’t help. But the issue is open on GitHub. I will just wait until it’s marked as completed.

I think that this reflects your experience. So yeah, there are some issues that you and a few others experience that have not been addressed. I also agree that the iOS application is not great and requires workarounds (those are heavily documented) because iOS is buggy and limited. It’s not unreasonable to expect support, I personally provide support to 5-10 people a week. It is, however, unreasonable to expect everyone to get personal support. You can also contact the EteSync community and get help there (Matrix chan has ~160 ppl and daily activity).

Docker’s whole thing is that it’s an identical environment that you can deploy anywhere, and since it definitely works for at least one person (the Docker image has over 500,000 downloads), it’s most likely something you did wrong. I understand the guides may be a bit rough around the edges, but given the above it’s extremely unlikely that the problem is with the image (which btw, is maintained by the community).

Right, that’s exactly what I’m saying…hence my suggestion that PrivacyGuides add a disclaimer stating that there may be issues, and they are not being addressed. Again I’m not really sure what (if anything?) you’re disgreeing with here.

Gotcha. In that case maybe there should be a disclaimer to the website’s proclamation that “EteSync is very easy to use. Our app seamlessly integrates with your existing apps so you won’t even notice you are using it.”?

I never said that, and I never expected that.

If Matrix is the best way to get help then perhaps that should be linked under the “It doesn’t work” section of the FAQ instead of the Git?

Didnt work out of the box for me, like any other docker image but could definitely be a system difference. Docker isn’t magic. I am not saying its easy to make something like this. Surely not.

I agree that EteSync is still the best solution for syncing contacts/calendars/tasks privately, regardless of how recently the apps have or haven’t been updated. Proton Mail doesn’t actually encrypt your contact names and email addresses.

When compared to the other recommendations on the website, it’s the only one that is actually syncing your information to your device, rather than just providing an app to access it (Proton Mail’s contacts for example, cannot be used to store and sync your Signal contacts, which are taken from your phone’s system contacts storage).

It’s also the only open source one. Or at least the server part. Proton Calendar’s apps are currently not open source though, and EteSync is.

Because the server is open source, it’s also self-hostable. This is not to say that you should self-host in order to not pay the very reasonable subscription fee of $24 a year, but for some people self-hosting is important, and if you already have the infrastructure, it makes sense to self-host it.

While it’s not recommended for contacts/calendar/tasks sync, EteSync is also better than Nextcloud’s syncing support. Both sync to the system storage, but this information is synced to Nextcloud in a completely unencrypted form, and it is also stored in an unencrypted form. This is true regardless of whether you use the end-to-end encryption add-on (don’t: Don't Recommend Nextcloud E2EE - #27 by ph00lt0), as Nextcloud simply runs a plain CalDAV and a plain CardDAV server.

While it may be true that “updates” are important for security, and by extension also privacy, there is nothing wrong with the current version of the apps (at least for my use case, which is an Android device, and multiple Linux devices), nor is anything to be gained to use by adding say, Material You support to the Android app. It just syncs your information after all.

To my knowledge, there are also no vulnerabilities in the apps that aren’t being fixed. F-Droid for example, labels apps with known vulnerabilities, and EteSync doesn’t have this label. If the server is being actively maintained, it should also be assumed that the chances of a vulnerability affecting EteSync users is low.

I understand if the team doesn’t particularly care about my opinion, as they have no reason to, but I don’t see the point of considering apps that haven’t been “recently updated” as worse than apps that actually have less privacy, less features, and less usability. I’m in favour of adding EteSync back to the list for these reasons.

Tl;dr: EteSync is still private, open source, and self-hostable. It syncs to the system, where the other recommendations don’t. And as Proton Mail’s contacts aren’t fully encrypted, and their calendar app isn’t yet open source, EteSync is the most private and open source option. Updates aren’t everything.


@anon62252234 I largely agree with your arguments for EteSyncs design and importance here, but I think you’ve missed the point of my post. The lack of updates isn’t necessarily an issue on its own; it’s an issue because the macOS/Windows and iOS clients have major reliability and usability issues (as described throughout the thread). Plus EteSync Notes is pretty clearly unfinished.

Privacy Guides shouldn’t be recommending things that aren’t reliable without a disclaimer, IMO. That’s the main conceit here.

As I’ve said a few times, on Android it works 100% as expected / advertised. So I think it should be recommended for Android, with a disclaimer about other platforms.

I don’t have experience with those clients, so unfortunately there’s not much I can say there. However, I didn’t say that EteSync Notes should be recommended, and I still don’t. Merely that the contacts/calendar/tasks syncing service, EteSync itself, should be recommended.

Also, you can have a disclaimer about reliability if you want. I’m not against that. But, at least EteSync actually has syncing. The other recommendations do not.

Fair enough. I agree that EteSync contacts/calendar/tasks should remain on the site, since it is a unique service, but with a disclaimer that it is not be reliable on macOS/Windows/iOS, bugs may not get addressed on those platforms … and that support may not be available, as evidenced by the main dev’s posts in this thread.

Thank you for the kind words, and I agree, that’s exactly what I think too.

Security updates, when ones are needed, will happen promptly. Though yeah, the app is safe and reliable, and it’s my daily driver too.