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I have to admit that the switch from “free software” to “open source” worked on me. Early in my career I was intrigued by the idea, but couldn’t get past how “free” software was a sustainable model. I started to get it at around the same time the terminology changed.

On a related note, I heard the word shareware last week. It made me happy when I realized how long it had been since I had thought about shareware.




And what about now, how do you think that open source is good for business in ways free software is not?

I think the majority opinion, judging by the likes of gitlab, is to use some or a lot of open source to entice people to pay you for plain ol' proprietary software. Closed shell, or open core.

It looks like there's only room for one RedHat in the world, only one company who truly sells free software. As I understand it, you can pay Red Hat for access to their repos, which provide free software with source code, and nothing else. They really do plainly sell free software, but I think they call it "self-supported" or similar.

edit: I'm of course aware that RH sells support. I just don't know any other company that plainly sells free software like RH also does. I wonder why no one else even tries.


My previous reply wasn't clear. It wasn't the difference between the meanings of open source and free software that changed my mind. It was the terminology change that helped rid me of the mental image of working for free. Now I realize there is a world of difference between free and open source software, but I didn't know that at the time.

As for now, I think free software is good for business. My company works on dozens of free libraries, and it's good for our business because we end up running better code than what we could write by ourselves. When you consider whether it is "good for business", you need to consider that most businesses don't sell software. Of course GitLab and others won't ever be able to sell free software, but that doesn't mean it isn't good for business.

I have mixed feelings about open source projects that are built by single companies who sell enterprise versions. It's often handy to have them around, but I wouldn't consider contributing anything significant to them after seeing instances where PRs remain unmerged because they compete with the enterprise-version.


> Now I realize there is a world of difference between free and open source software

There isn't. It's essentially the same set of software. That's the whole point of OSI. To just rebrand it. It's like saying that there's a world of a difference between global warming and climate change, or freedom fighters and rebel insurgents.


RMS is very clear on the difference between open source and free software [1].

> The two terms describe almost the same category of software, but they stand for views based on fundamentally different values. Open source is a development methodology; free software is a social movement. For the free software movement, free software is an ethical imperative, essential respect for the users' freedom. By contrast, the philosophy of open source considers issues in terms of how to make software “better”—in a practical sense only. It says that nonfree software is an inferior solution to the practical problem at hand.

Confusion certainly has arisen over the dual meanings of "free", where the intent is to convey "unrestricted" but often "without cost" is understood. Similarly, a confusion naturally arises between what OSI may define as qualifying for the term "open source," and the plain meaning of the words which imply that when the source is open for inspection, then the project is open source. But as you see above, even when the terms are understood as their definers intend, they have very different meanings even if they describe a similar set of software, because they have very different cultural contexts and goals behind them.

[1] "Why Open Source misses the point of Free Software" https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point....


Now that I know you have that perspective, I'm curious what you meant by your previous question, "And what about now, how do you think that open source is good for business in ways free software is not?"


I think you already answered, in a way. When they called the same software by a different name, you stopped thinking that money was disallowed. You repeated that you (only?) think about what is good for business. So, yeah, OSI's rebranding worked. Same software, but focus on the business side.


Redhat and Canonical both sell support and services, not just software. I believe there are other companies of lesser size doing this as well, possibly all the way down to individuals where lines are blurred.


Redhat also sells support contracts, and (previously?) non free software as premium options.


I can always tell who doesn't understand software total cost of ownership. They always think the great cost is in creation. Long term maintainers are much harder to come by than short term job hoppers. As Linus said, BSD is great for code you don't care about.




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