Sometimes you'll want to leave a free software project. It might be one you founded or one you've joined. You may have spent years contributing to it. You may have formed friendships with other contributors: working together on something for a long time tends to be a catalyst for that. However, things change and you may want to leave. You might no longer be using the software. You might not have time to contribute. There might be disagreements about where the project is going or how it is going to be operating. You might be moving to a different continent. You may be switching careers entirely. You may be founding an unrelated company.

A term for this is 'retiring'. Depending on the project, there may be a processs to follow, or you may just wing it.

More importantly, there're various aspects to consider when retiring, especially if you've been involved for a long time.

  • Why are you leaving? It's best to be honest about this, particularly to yourself. Don't rage quit.
  • Will the project survive you leaving?
  • How will users of the software be affected?
  • What about other collaborators on the project?
  • Will there be people to pick up the slack and take over responsibilities? Will they know what to do? Can they ask you for help afterwards?
  • Is there any publicity likely to follow from the retirement? (Probably not, except for high-profile projects.)
  • Are there any assets (computers, etc) that need to be dealt with?

Retiring from a free software project is a lot like leaving paid employment. If you do it well, you make sure all your old commitments and responsibilities are handed over to new people, and no-one is affected too adversely from the change. As a result, you'll be remembered with fondness and you're always welcome back.

Unlike paid employment, there's few hard and fast rules in Free Software. It's important to remember that though your contributions are valued, you're not obliged to continue them if you don't want to.