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This post raises a lot of good points about the futility of this new wave of split-restriction licenses, but misses fairly obvious one. Entrepreneurs think they want to have an "open source business model" because they have marketshare-scaling problem: they want their software distributed to a wide audience such that it gains usage and mindshare, but not wide enough where AWS is selling their work as a managed service at prices they couldn't by themselves.

And by and large, giving software away in a combination of gratis and libre maximizes the gains of mindshare and experience from both the curious amateur and the intrigued professional; the intellectual and societal implications may be different, but it gets used by the bulk of users in the same manner as shareware.

For many of these newer projects, the libre aspect isn't a heartfelt belief -- it's a sort of loss-leader strategy to enable access to a particular type of audience, and unlock a particular type of language for marketing. Handfuls of people may exercise their rights to fork and/or redistribute, but plenty of intrinsic barriers exist to keep these from being a competitive threat -- until a sufficiently equipped and dedicated party like AWS or Google Cloud, that is.

It's no surprise then, that some offerings are drifting more towards traditional shareware, where restrictions on use are the norm. In this space, we're seeing a conflict unfolding about the ideology and terminology used to describe such split offerings.




I have to disagree with your premise. Entrepeneurs who are starting these sorts of companies were often engineers at larger employers and were on teams where originally built these platforms that had become open source and relatively successful while they still worked there. Then they realized they were able to raise funding to start their own company around the software they previously built and then decided to do so. This applies for most of the companies mentioned in the article, where open source software later released by the new companies were the mistakes they had made.


I don't disagree with your post; but I think we're talking about different things, because the article talks about multiple kinds of companies. You're right that the companies that are now relicensing are ones that were born from a tool they built first, before monetization was visible goal. I am addressing companies in a more general sense, when entrepreneurs search for market opportunities. That's where the article notes that some see "open source" as a market strategy on its own.

And really, the dichotomy contributes to the situation.

The ones who built useful tool and years later realized it may be monetizable are hemmed in difficult choices. Do they reneg on open source and go proprietary from this point forward, effectively forking their own product and leaving the gratis, libre one -- the one most people will have exposure to -- stuck on an old version? Do they split into an open core and proprietary enhancements? Do they write a novel license and hope consumers will self-select into tl;dr harmless amateurs and very handsomely paying corporations? And if SaaS providers take their old version, and that fork gains ground?

Meanwhile, the ones who used 'open source' chiefly as a customer acquisition lead will face the same set of challenges. In the end, any artifacts published under an open source license are forever -- as long as the interest is there, a sufficiently dedicated party can take it, use it, enhance it, try to build a business around it, and the like. And any past version is a potential competitor, so your business models must be tolerant of that fact. They rarely are.




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