It’s not new, even if each time it comes up people think it’s a new outrage.
One of the durable long-term strategies for software businesses in the era of open source was perfected by SugarCRM about a decade ago. I’ve described it as the rights ratchet model. The “ratchet clicks” (not necessarily in exactly this sequence) are:
In these days of code that no single mind can grasp, it’s hard to see how software freedom is present when there’s no realistic community access to source code.
In the early days of Free Software, it was a safe assumption that anyone using a computer had coding skills of some sort — even if only for shell scripts. As a consequence, many advocates of Free Software, despite a strong focus on user freedoms, had a high tolerance for software that made source available under free terms without providing other access to the project, especially in the days when that meant tapes by mail. Continue reading →
Choosing between licenses – even copyleft vs non-reciprocal – is less important than ensuring everyone has equal rights & responsibilities.
I’m often asked which open source licence is best for businesses who want to release a project as open source. Usually behind the question the issue is a desire for corporate control somewhere in the organisation. This tends to flow from a conviction the only way a business can succeed is by keeping some sort of copyright (or patent) control that creates an artificial scarcity. Continue reading →
A key value of open source is the ability to switch to a different supplier if your first becomes unavailable or unattractive. Forgerock is apparently withdrawing that value, on which it relied itself for its inception.
After leaving Sun I was pleased that a group of former employees and partners chose to start a new company. Their idea was to pick up the Sun identity management software Oracle was abandoning and continue to sustain and evolve it. Open source made this possible. Continue reading →
The acquisition of virtual reality company Oculus VR by Facebook was announced this week to mixed reactions. Most negative were those who had enabled the Rift VR goggles to be created in the first place — the backers on Kickstarter who provided nearly $2.5m to see the dream become reality. One prominent backer, the founder of Minecraft creators Mojang, was especially upset, deciding that Minecraft will not collaborate with Facebook. In a blog post he wrote:
I did not chip in ten grand to seed a first investment round to build value for a Facebook acquisition.
What opportunities does Open Source provide if you’re really looking to go big? Aiming to become “the next Red Hat” is an idea flawed from the start, as former XenSource CEO Peter Levine explains in his recent TechCrunch article. So what’s left if business models focussing on selling support and services all have a relatively low limit to their growth?
Those who are making the most money out of Open Source today are in fact not those who try to monetize a specific Open Source project, but those who innovate and build businesses that sit on top of a backbone of Open Source projects. Twitter, Square, Google and Facebook could all be given as examples of this sort of innovation. Importantly, the Open Source communities these companies engage with are likely to stay active and healthy as other community members also execute on their business model, gaining benefit from the project as well as making their own contributions (if they are smart).