I saw several potential sales get tanked because the customer had an advisor who believed that if they used open source to develop their website, they would no longer own the content. For example, a furniture company thought they would lose control of their pictures of the furniture. Another blog style site thought they would lose control of the blog posts they wrote. Literally, I am not making this up. It's like believing that Microsoft owns your document because you wrote it in Word.
No amount of discussion, examples, or logic would dissuade them. I can't imagine how this idea survives, but I saw it as recently as a month ago in a comment here on HN (which of course I can't find right now), so it's not completely isolated.
I'm not sure open source was a net win for the startup I worked at. Due to complicating some sales and assisting a few competitors, it wasn't a clean slam dunk.
The GPL provides more freedom to the end user than any commercial license, and it is deeply disingenuous to keep spreading FUD that indicates otherwise.
This is a straight up lie. We were discussing assets like pictures, blog posts, etc. None of these assets, distributed in any way, would ever be affected by the license of the software used to build the website on which they appear. Just like the text you edit in Word is not owned by Microsoft and the photo you edit with Photoshop is not owned by Adobe.
There is nothing tricky about the GPL (or any other Open Source license) in this context (or really in any other, since the license is extremely well-documented), and it is FUD to suggest otherwise.
I didn't say they were. I said you'd have to explain it. You'd have to make a distinction about code, non-code, services, shipping code, etc...
My point, you do need to explain the GPL in more detail than many other open source licenses. The OP made this clear in the real world from the fact that potential customers didn't undertand it.
But I think this is the problem with the GPL movement. They're in such disbelief that people may not understand they flame anyone who takes the time to explain it.
None of those are rights you would have with commercial software. You can't redistribute Word or Photoshop or Camtasia, and you can't bundle them up with a new UI and call it your own work and sell it on the iPhone. The GPL just happens to give you some ways to go about doing so that would have been illegal under commercial licenses. The end user has more rights under the GPL than they would under commercial licenses, generally speaking, and it is disingenuous to keep repeating FUD that says otherwise.
My point, you do need to explain the GPL in more detail than many other open source licenses. If you disagree, I say you're the liar.
We are discussing content like blog posts and photo assets. There are no discussions to be had about the license of the software used to distribute them, as it has no affect on them.
So, yes, I disagree with you, and I don't understand how you can come to your conclusions. They simply do not make sense in this context. You're making outlandish claims about the GPL that simply are not true, and defending them against all reason.
This is why I really didn't want to discuss this with you, again. You clearly have a bone to pick with the GPL that makes no sense to me, and you repeatedly spread FUD about its power to control end users, with no regard for facts.
Read the OP and the fact that his customers were having this confusion. You seem to think the confusion doesn't exist.
And I don't have a bone to pick with the GPL. It's a great license for some stuff. With that said if I'm selling product using the GPL and a customer comes to me with a question about it, I'll explain it. I won't yell at them, or call them idiots, or say, "how dare you question getting more freedom, you liar!"
No, I think that comments like the one you made contribute to this confusion. I think the confusion exists because of comments like yours (as he also mentioned, there are even people here at HN that are actually confused, and not intentionally spreading FUD). I don't believe that you, specifically, are responsible for all of the confusion about the GPL, but I believe that enough people making false statements about the scope and power of the GPL can add up to real problems for users and developers. That this was one of the FUD tactics of Microsoft regarding the GPL for a number of years makes me perhaps even more sensitive about it. At one point in time, not too far past, that kind of claim was part of the FUD war Microsoft (and other proprietary vendors) waged against Free software.
In short, I believe that people who make statements like yours confuse people into thinking the GPL is something that it is not, and I would like it if people like you, who presumably actually know better, would stop making misleading statements like the one you made. I don't want people to be confused.
So, if you'll simply stop trying to confuse people with misstatements about the GPL, I won't feel compelled to keep arguing with you about it.
And I don't have a bone to pick with the GPL.
A brief review of your comment history when the GPL comes up seems to indicate otherwise.
Don't be super sensitive and interpret everything as an attack on your religion. That's going to scare people away from the GPL. Businesses want competitive advantages, not a religion to subscribe to.
I'm not interpreting it as an attack. It is an attack, and relatively common type of attack regularly employed by folks who dislike the GPL (as I mentioned, Microsoft once used it with regularity, but they aren't the only ones, and they've been off that particular horse for a while, I think). I'm merely calling it out. I've been involved in Open Source software long enough to have seen a lot of FUD from a lot of different angles. Sometimes it is subtle, sometimes it is obvious. This one is an old dead horse that's been beaten to a pulp, but folks still like to trot it out now and then (or roll it out in a wheelbarrow, or something).
People make incorrect statements about the scope and power of GPL because it is the most complex of the free/open licenses, and it is not well drafted. Even Stallman has made incorrect statements about the scope and power of GPL on occasion (mainly be forgetting that if a proposed use of some GPL software would not be a copyright violation absent a license, then GPL does not apply to that proposed use). If he can't get it right all the time, it's not reasonable to expect people who weren't intimately involved in its design and drafting to do so.
"And I don't have a bone to pick with the GPL.
A brief review of your comment history when the GPL comes up seems to indicate otherwise."
I've only spoken the truth. I realize that freedom for you means others not having the right to speak, so I'll cease my conversation on it for this thread to appease your desire for all-encompassing freedom.
He said people can be confused by it. By definition, all he needs to do is find one person who is confused and what he says isn't untrue.
I know the answer, I guess you know the answer, and I suspect most people here know the answer.
But it does need explaining, and to raise the complexity as an issue isn't a "straight-up lie".
Edit: And GPL already calls out what is covered. Source code. It's incredibly clear.
The license commercial software uses gives you no rights to do much of anything, yet nobody thinks Adobe owns photos edited in Photoshop.
Exactly. No one thinks that with Adobe. Yet as the original poster pointed out, people do have confusion with open source licenses.
Why should granting more rights change that? It makes no sense to me.
Rights granted with GPL aren't strictly more to the person deploying the GPL code.
And GPL already calls out what is covered. Source code. It's incredibly clear.
The GPL definition of source code is the following:
The "source code" for a work means the preferred form of the work for making modifications to it.
Honestly, I'm not sure exactly what that means. I have a good idea, but if deploying with it, I'd certainly get a lawyer involved.
Take a standalone product like Camtasia. It works really well and its worth the money to buy it. But if it was FOSS and I could just donwload the sources, build and it use it, and only had to pay for support -- well I probably would never buy it. I've never needed support with it. It's so easy to use, I've never had a need for support (in fact, that's partially why I'm willing to pay for it!).
Figure out what your business model is first. And then do what makes sense. Open sourcing often does, but not always.
Not only this, but anyone could build and maintain a free version and make it so the average user doesn't need to even compile it.
Open sourcing an app doesn't really make sense for a business. You will be making it easier for competitors to put you out of business.
EDIT: And to be clear, that's largely what Google's Chrome/Docs strategy is. The total revenue from it isn't very large, even if it is a success. The real win is chopping down the core revenue of someone who wants to chop down their core revenue (search revenue). But today Google has to build this all. If MS did FOSS, MS would be handing Google the keys.
To play devils advocate to your point though what about mysql, that's a downloadable product that makes it's money from commercial support or to a lesser extend tools like Phusion passenger. Most people don't pay for them for the thousands of Rails websites passenger hosts. However, for those larger enterprises it's much better to employ the experts for support.
The key is looking to see if you business fits exactly as you say.
With that said, when I look at the hot enterprise software I see a lot of closed source software. Is this wishful thinking or something that is actually beginning to happen?
No, SAS, SAP, Oracle Apps, Lotus Notes, etc., won't be going away tomorrow. But I think there are clear signs that acceptance of F/OSS in the enterprise is growing.
For my own part, I'm working on an Open Source startup, playing in a space similar to Jive or Yammer... so - for what it's worth - I've bought into the idea. (Then again, I'm a F/OSS ideologue, so I'm not exactly unbiased).
That does seem like an interesting middle ground. It seems like your goal would be to develop a community of developers around it, but with the exception that you are the only person distributing the software (for a fee) to non-developers.
The main issue I see is that in order to work it really requires copyright assignment of all code to the company, and in many cases that's a raw deal for your open source contributors.
Licensing something under the GPL makes financial gain from your copyright practically impossible. People make much more money if they retain their legal right via copyright to be the sole source of (commercial) distribution. Hence, very few corporations are interested in using the GPL for software that they intend to package and sell as its own product.
The ideal license in my mind would include a clause that source and/or binaries should only be given to licensed users. I understand this greatly restricts freedom of distribution compared to the GPL, especially since a user can't know if a user is licensed or not (a practical application of this may be a copyright notice bundled with every patch, telling unlicensed persons they are not allowed to use it), but we know that GPL is too lax on this front from a commercial perspective, making it inviable to sell GPL software (the software itself, not attached services) as a major product. In some cases, a merely non-commercial license might be acceptable. I am always in favor of the most freedom, but we know that the amount of freedom given by the GPL is too much to retain profitability.
I would still encourage GPL use where possible, but a license like the one I've described would make it possible for consumer-friendly developers (Valve's a good candidate imo) to open up their code, allow the community to hack on it and share their hacks amongst themselves, and still protect their revenue stream. This could also be extended to game engines like Source; a non-commercial license would be ideal for that so hobbyists, academics, etc., could still learn from it and use it, and Valve could still make their money licensing it out to other game developers.
The point is to get source into the hands of as many persons as possible. I don't think it's good to restrict this because of divergent economic or political realities; if you're using a computer, you should have source to your programs, and be able to modify them as you see fit, and developers should still be able to make money off of their software.
I wonder if the FSF would agree to write such a license. It doesn't quite fit with their goals, I think, but they also preach "pragmatic idealism". And they provide the LGPL, so it's not without precedent.
You might consider something like the AGPL instead, which still qualifies as Open Source, but which provides added protections for a hosted service.
(I'd also think AGPL would be less OSS-like than that suggestion, since it limits what changes you're allowed to make instead of just limiting how you're allowed to distribute it.)
As another commenter pointed out, AGPL is actually the opposite direction, as it merely applies the copyleft constraints of the GPL to hosted software.
I have non-mainstream economic and political views too that involve the principles you're talking about, but is Free Software a movement about software or reshaping politics? It's nice to conflate the two and spread philosophy through the GPL to the extent that you can, but it's also nice to know what you're computer is doing and to be free to change it. One goal at a time.
The only good piece of advice here is to be awesome so your customers will love you and your product. ... I'm pretty sure that's common sense, and everyone would do it if it were that easy.
I just find it striking how people want to give their product (source code) away for free, without limitation. Just seems like such a waste and detriment to the software engineering profession (i.e., why pay someone to write something when you can go get it for free and piece together yourself).
If this formula is true, then users will pay for your service instead of doing it themselves. We have seen this pattern consistently.
Our accounts sell at $12, $29 and $99, which is usually much cheaper than setting it up on yourself and running your own server. We even have switchers that used to host their own version and came to our online version.
This is also being the case with many Wordpress hosting sites. Multi-tenancy brings an economy of scale that allows you to keep good margins while being cheaper than hosting it yourself.
If I want to run a competing business and I have more money for advertising, servers, and employees, I will not only have an advantage over you, but I now don't have to put any time into R&D.
Yep, that sounds like the business model we all know and love. Apache proved it works.
Imagine a world with no open source: no Linux, Apache, gcc, Perl, MySQL, Emacs, etc, etc. If you want a website, you have to pay through the nose for a commercial OS, web server, database, and compilers and scripting languages. Will the demand for software developers be higher or lower in that world compared to ours?
I'm just trying to put your post into another perspective. I can pay for the tools for a year with a days work. Seems a bargain to me. Perhaps OSS has driven that cost down, we can't a/b test worlds unfortunately.
While I do love using OSS, a lot of it is very user hostile compared to commercial software. Yes mysql, openoffice and gimp, I'm looking at you.
How would they learn?
Part of the reason I didn't start coding earlier in my life is (I started late high school) is because I didn't know about the free/ open source alternatives to the programs you had to pay for that were in all the books I had access to.
I'm pretty sure that typical open source licenses, such as the GPL, count as a "limitation".
Disclosure: I run a company that sells software which is also available under the GPL.
I think an acceptable (business-wise) middle-way is to open some components that are valuable to the world, but does not immediately make everyone a potential instant competitor.
There would be shoulders to stand on, you'd just have to pay for it.
If you (as the producer of the product) choose to provide a product for free, that is totally up to you if you are going to provide support for free or for a fee.
If you (as a consumer of a product) choose to download a free product, you should not have any expectation about the level of support you are going to receive. Depends totally on the vendor. If the product doesn't meet your needs, then you need to find an alternative product or develop your own product.
If the product were open source, you could improve the product on your own. But again, totally up to you on whether or not that's how you want to spend your time. Personally, I'd much rather go find a superior product than spend my limited time trying to clean up someoneelse's code.
You need to be more explicit about freedom- what you mean as you have written it, is freedom to tinker and modify. The lack of that type of freedom has absolutely nothing to do with cooperation and trust.
My company's ERP system (like every other software I use) is free software, namely OpenERP (previously known as TinyERP). However I employed an external specialized service company to build our system around it, and paid this company good money (about 30000 euros IIRC). I myself developed free GPL software for similar amounts of money, several times.
You must extirpate from your mind the ridiculous idea that Libre software is free as beer. It definitely isn't. When used professionally, you must plan to spend money, possibly big money on it. The difference is that you have the choice to spend money where it matters.
The share-ability of information is like a free natural resource. If we want to really make progress, we use it.
> why pay someone to write something when you can go get it for free and piece together yourself
To pay people to produce things that are already available for free would be economic nonsense. It would be just throwing away effort that could be spent on producing things that are not available and are needed.
Our project is over 13 years old, used on millions of servers, and is about 95% written by one guy. There are some measurable benefits, like translations and more participatory users who help find bugs faster and occasionally even send patches. But, the odds of outside developers joining a non-developer-centric project, without some sort of incentive, are slim. So, developer tools tend to attract a lot of help. End user applications rarely do (look at GNOME for an example; it's the most important piece of desktop Linux, and yet 90% of the code is being written and maintained by people who are employed full-time to work on said code; volunteers make up a tiny portion of the project).
There are other good reasons to develop software under an Open Source model. But developers working for free is not one of them in the majority of cases, and you'll probably spend more time herding cats than actually getting work done, if that were your primary goal.
If you do it simply because you think it's going to save you some work, it won't pay off. Do it because you want other people to benefit from it, but don't expect much from them and maybe it will just happen.
> If you do it simply because you think it's going to save you some work, it won't pay off.
A very immature blanket statement. Sometimes it will pay off, sometimes not. Depends on everything success usually depends on - open source is not some kind of magical exception. If you have a good product, but you feel like you won't be able to support it forever on your own or you don't expect or want to earn money from it anyway, you will open source it. In the end, it always boils down to wanting help with the workload though. If you had infinite time, you would just write everything yourself. I know I would, it's a lot more satisfying and interesting. But since we are all mere mortals with generally empty bellies, we open source secondary pillars of our livelihood. Nothing wrong with it, that's how it is.
Opening the source does not instil the knowledge that went into making the product.
> I still don't "get" the allure of open source.
From which perspective? The user or the programmer?
> I just find it striking how people want to give their product (source code) away for free, without limitation.
Most licenses have limitations to some degree. Even BSD licenses.
> go get it for free and piece together yourself
You can also get the ingredients and recipes yourself and make food yourself. As can you do with clothing. Or numerous other things. However, people pay for service.
> Just seems like such a waste and detriment to the software engineering profession
Except for the fact that the software engineering profession is built on the back of open source.
I should have phrased my statement to distinguish the two better, but I agree with your statement.
> From which perspective? The user or the programmer?
From a ISV (handful of people making software) perspective. Why would I provide a service for free when I could do it for cash? I know this will boil down to some altruistic argument. The goal of (most) businesses is to make money, not improve the welfare of others through good deeds.
> You can also get the ingredients and recipes yourself and make food yourself. As can you do with clothing. Or numerous other things. However, people pay for service.
We are talking about software, not food or clothing. Digital goods are not physical goods so the comparison is irrelevant.
> Except for the fact that the software engineering profession is built on the back of open source.
That is purely conjecture.
The article is not saying you should, its saying that open source the code you are selling, it might not hurt sales at all, in fact it may improve them, I work for a software vendor (couchbase) where a lot of customers wouldnt even consider using a product that was not open source, but are still willing to pay.
> We are talking about software, not food or clothing. Digital goods are not physical goods so the comparison is irrelevant.
it is not irrelevant, freelance web developers have not lost their jobs because of the billions(+) of html/css/js code that is out there, they are paying for the process in which you came up with that code, then they give it to everyone for free, as all websites do.
> That is purely conjecture.
I think the burden of proof is on you here, open source is the base in which pretty much everything has been built, including this website, the web server it sits on, the programming language it was written in, the operating system that runs on, and more than likely the browser you are viewing it in.
The claim was about the software engineering profession not just the web-based sector.
To increase your the user base of your product, increasing reliance on your product, and thereby increase demand for support and licensing arrangements for said product.
Countless business have build their products and their business on top of that pattern. Both at the consumer end and developer end.
This is, in fact, a feature closed software cannot provide. The ability to continue to use and upgrade software after the developer loses interest in supporting the product.
Basically, open sourcing allows you to add features that you cannot otherwise add. Features that are valued by consumers. No one buys a product because it's closed.
Finally, if your products only advantage is being closed, it's only defense against competition is patents. So, unless you are playing the patent game, someone at some point will come along and create a replacement. And that will affect the money coming in.
Why? Because physical goods are a finite resource? Your argument of "go get it for free and piece together yourself" also discusses a finite resource, "time", as well as "knowledge".
The comparison is relevant unless you can explain away time and knowledge.
I disagree. Remove open source, and the software engineering profession would be far different from what it is today. The software engineering profession of today is built on the back of open source. It's not the only element, but to dismiss open source as not being a foundation of modern software engineering as mere conjecture is ignorant.
I'm not of the belief everyone should be required to open source their products. They decide what they want to do. Open sourcing something might require a lot of effort and time that an ISV doesn't have. That's fair. However, outside issues like that, open sourcing makes a lot of sense. Look at Mozilla and Netscape. Wordpress. Apache. Linux. MySQL and Postgre. All these products make the people that build those products money.
Why should you open source your product? I don't know. I don't know your product, or the business. Or what you are providing. However, what I do know is that if it's merely the source code that makes your product valuable, then their isn't much value there to begin with.
Just my 2 cents.
On the other hand, selling services and hosting means an actual revenue stream. Strange world we live in.