A draft scorecard for determining if a software project is open as bait for a business pivot or genuinely keeping your freedoms protected.
The seven signs a project is following the rights-ratchet route to riches and the framework for going beyond licensing can be augmented by some straightforward indicators of an issue. None of these alone is necessarily a cause for concern, but the more clicks, the more risks. Here’s a rough-and-ready first draft of a scorecard to check whether your software supplier considers you a community peer and will respect and protect your essential freedoms, or visualises you more like one of those pods in The Matrix. Just count the clicks; the more clicks, the higher the risk this is a rights-ratchet that will end up closed.
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).