Open letter to the WhiteboxTools Community

Hello WhiteboxTools User Community!

Since I initiated the WhiteboxTools project in 2017, the platform has grown significantly. We have added hundreds of tools for processing all kinds of geospatial data. WhiteboxTools now interfaces with major GIS applications, including QGIS and ArcGIS, and it can be used in Python, R and Nim scripting environments to better integrate into your workflows. The user community has also grown quite substantially in this time. WhiteboxTools is now used in well over one hundred countries by thousands of researchers and GIS professionals who are applying it in truly interesting and marvellous ways. I receive frequent feedback from many of you describing how the power, flexibility, and efficiency of WhiteboxTools has made it an integral tool in your geospatial toolboxes. WhiteboxTools has even recently been recognized for its innovation. I am truly honoured and humbled by the enthusiasm for this open-source project; developing WBT has been a fantastic personal journey.

With many open-source projects, the burden of continued development falls on the few volunteers willing to step up. In the case of WhiteboxTools, I have led the development, having written hundreds of thousands of lines of Rust code to get the project to this point (I do note the tremendous efforts of the various people who maintain the WBT front-endsQiusheng Wu, you’re work is great!). However, because I am a full-time professor, I often find myself spread too thinly due to professional commitments. I’m not as responsive to user queries and bug reports as I’d like to be, particularly during the busy teaching months.

To this end, my former graduate student, Anthony Francioni, and I have started a number of initiatives to alleviate this issue. Foremost among these initiatives, we have incorporated Whitebox Geospatial Inc., a company with the goal of supporting full-time development of the WhiteboxTools platform. We believe that this move will allow for more sustainable management of the project, strengthening the software, and providing for more responsive user engagement.

Importantly, we are committed to the continued open culture of WhiteboxTools, which we know users value deeply. All current tools contained within the open-core will continue to be freely available moving forward and we will continue to develop new tools in the core. Our vision is that Whitebox Geospatial Inc. will offer a range of plugin tools for purchase that extend the functionality of the open-core of WhiteboxTools. In fact, we have developed several plugins already and licenses for the Whitebox General Toolset Extension are now available for purchase. In the near future, we plan to develop more toolset extensions that will target specific industries and applications, such as forestry and agriculture. We envision that this will provide the revenue needed to continually maintain and strengthen the open-core. Many of you have previously asked me, ‘how can I support the WhiteboxTools project?’ Now, purchasing a license is the best way that you can contribute to the sustainable development and ongoing availability of this uniquely powerful tool. Whitebox Geospatial Inc. will also provide consulting services centred around our expertise and strength in LiDAR data processing and digital terrain analysis.

We are very excited by this new page in the project history and hope that you are too. We hope that you share our vision for a long-term sustainable future for WhiteboxTools. As part of our efforts to achieve this vision, we have also started a new user forum for posting Whitebox-related questions, opened a Twitter account (@whiteboxgeo), and have initiated a news-letter to keep users up-to-date with ongoing developments. Visit today to sign up!

Warmest regards,

Prof. John Lindsay
WhiteboxTools Lead Developer