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Zendesk pretends to be open source? (zendesk.co.uk)
271 points by tailspin2019 10 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 79 comments

Yes, they are pretending to be open source for SEO purposes and that is not okay. They do get the definition of OSS right:

> "Open source support ticket systems are unique in that anyone is free to inspect, modify, and enhance the underlying code that’s used to build the ticketing system."

But then somehow they include Zendesk in the "Top 10 open source helpdesk ticketing systems". Can I see the code used to build Zendesk? Obviously not. Now suddenly the definition of Zendesk is this, which is different from the Open Source definition they themselves quoted:

> Zendesk is an open API ticket system which means third-party developers can build new integrations on our platform. Unlike other open source ticketing systems, Zendesk software offers all the advantages of open source ticketing without your team having to build a system from scratch. Zendesk’s open API ticketing system software gives your team all the tools they need to build as much—or as little—as they want.

Open API !== Open Source ticket system

PS, archived:


...and it is removed (well, edited)

Thank you for the snapshot link.

I think the page has changed? It doesn't say this now.... also your link to web archive seems to be a save link rather than a link to the captured site

The HN link is to a lower section of the page; if you scroll up you can see a section called "What is an open source ticketing system?". Or, just search for "What is an open source ticketing system?" and you can see it in a part above.

I think they have changed it now. You may be still seeing the locally cached previous version (as I was too until I realised).

You are right! I hard refreshed and it's gone. It seems the whole page has been removed, luckily it's captured in the Internet Archive as it was:


Take a look at xerxes901's comment in this post. Looks like they got through to someone internally. And their comment history checks out; it appears they do with for or with Zendesk.

Not to excuse this, but this has to be coming from a clueless copywriter and just never got reviewed by anyone who actually knows what it means. All they're trying to say is that they have an API so you can build integrations yourself if they don't have what you need off the shelf.

No one who understood both marketing and engineering would ever approve something like this because it wouldn't actually lead to any sales, and if by some crazy chance a buyer naively did purchase based on such a premise it would be a colossal shit-storm once they found out and they'd have to nullify the contract.

I think you pasted the wrong wayback machine url. the url you posted here is to indicate wayback machine to take a snapshot, not to show a snapshot they already archived.

True, too late to edit now but at least I did save it, and your sibling put the correct link!

This is the sort of article you expect to find on a "best reviews" website full of Amazon affiliate links.

edit: As intended, when you Google "best open source helpdesk 2021," Google now just shows the following excerpt:

> Top 10 open source helpdesk ticketing systems

> • Zendesk.

> • FreeScout.

> • osTicket.

> [...]

There's another misleading "google featured snippet" if you search google for:

is zendesk open source?

"Unlike other open source ticketing systems, Zendesk software offers all the advantages of open source ticketing without your team having to build a system from scratch"

So, somebody at ZenDesk appears to be flexing their SEO.

This page also seems to toy with associating Zendesk with Open Source, without stating whether Zendesk is or not open source:


Thanks for pointing this out. I just used the Feedback link in that Google search result page to specify that Zendesk is not open source. If enough people do this, it will completely negate (or even penalize?) Zendesk's misleading marketing attempt.

What is "enough"? Must be a lot to outweigh the risk of pissing off Zendesk and losing their ad spend...

Some Zendesk buying Google ads is several orders of magnitude more important to Zendesk than to Google. They're not really in a position to act pissed off about anything, when dealing with Google.

And this after the edit is the main purpose here. Tricking Knowledge Graph into regurgitating bad info, and then claiming that their site never states Zendesk is open source, and Google just misunderstood.

Time to write an article "Top 5 Best SEO Strategies 2022" with the following list:

1. Lie to people

2. Get Google to lie for you

3. Maintain plausible deniability

4. Hope nobody notices

5. Offer token apologies if you get caught

February 2022*

Those fake review sites are a blight upon the web.

From this page:

> Top 10 open source helpdesk ticketing systems

> 1. Zendesk

> 2. etc

Followed by:

> Zendesk is an open API ticket system which means third-party developers can build new integrations on our platform. Unlike other open source ticketing systems, Zendesk software offers all the advantages of open source ticketing without your team having to build a system from scratch.

And at the top:

> Best Open Source Ticketing System

> Open source help desk for a smarter, more agile customer service operation.

> Start free trial

EDIT: Here's some actual open source help desk software. Anyone got any further recommendations?


Wow, this is really gross. I used to know some people there, and thought they were fairly decent. I'd ask "what happened", but that's just redundant.

What's especially sad is I can't imagine this does them any good - the Venn diagram of people who would be fooled by this nonsense and sort of person who cares about open source seems pretty thin, so I have trouble imagining that pissing on the floor like this even helps them.

But I would encourage everyone to post the results of asking them where to download their source code.

Zendesk seems to have their own definition of what "open source" means, contrary to everyone else:

> An open source ticketing system is software that service teams use to document customer issues. The system helps these teams correctly route, resolve, and track all their customers’ problems and requests.

But then go on to state:

> Open source support ticket systems are unique in that anyone is free to inspect, modify, and enhance the underlying code that’s used to build the ticketing system. [including a link to https://opensource.com/resources/what-open-source]

I'm interested to see where I can "inspect, modify, and enhance the underlying code" for Zendesk? I've used it sometimes in the past, but never seen any of the underlying code for it.

Edit: seems to contradict themselves a couple of more times in the article too. Here is another passage under "Cons of an open source help desk ticketing system":

> With a help desk like Zendesk’s, all it takes is a plan upgrade to access a whole bevy of new features. But with fully open source systems, modifying the code can take multiple days—or weeks if your developers are busy.

Seems they are saying here that Zendesk is not a "fully open source system", judging by that?


> [...] if you have a strong development team ready to go, an open source ticket system could be for you.

> On the other hand, if you have a lean team, or if you want a full feature set that’s ready to go, Zendesk is your best option.

It's funny that the sales team who wrote that article actually show they don't know what they are writing about, and probably had to meet some word count. In any case, it probably sells, why it is still online.

Heh, yeah this doesn't look like it makes a lot of sense... I'll go shake a few trees internally and point this out.

I think the Zendesk article forgot us, take a look at a truly open source solution for CRM with live chat, knowledge base, video calls, API integrations, product tours, newsletters and more. https://github.com/chaskiq/chaskiq

oh, this looks cool. Does this have a support "ticket" system? From what I can tell the conversations are about the closest thing to one?

Thanks!. Yes, in Chaskiq you have conversations like Tickets. You can tag them and assign them to the right agent (manually or automatically). You can also create your own plugins to extend the features.

Based on the URL structure and the content I will venture a guess that this is SEO keyword driven content. They likely have a list of top keywords they’re looking to rank well on and this is one such keyword.

Yep. But IMHO the content of the page seems pretty deliberately written to be misleading.

I spent a good 10 minutes trying to understand what I was reading here.

I think SEO content is just code word is for misleading deliberately, it is either misleading the search engines or the users or both.

I've noticed this in a different context as well. Searching for "Free X" where X is some niche software, a website will list themselves as #1, even though their product is paid, albeit with a 30 days free trial. It's the new generation of SEO hacking.

I was just looking up docusign competitors and many of the comparison articles are by one of the competitors, Juro, on their own domain, pretending to be impartial. but all the links to the even more enticing competitors for my use case actually go to Juro! I would have signed up too if Juro didn't hide the pricing, so I actually got bounced from the phishing site for that reason, and noticed I was still on Juro's domain.

I have seen this often recently, sass providers claiming they are open source because they have free trials, can be rented or worst, because they have an API.

"Zendesk is an open API ticket system"


WTF is an open API? An API that allows you to use it?

What good would a closed API be that you can't access?

Indeed looks like they're after some organic traffic.

Similar shenanigans with other freemium products, where the bare minimum is free, but makes you dependent on shopping for the costly features.

It's extremely hard. To compare pricing, especially with concurrent users etc. I have to say, adobe is one of the most transparent in that regard, it's very clear what you will get.

My team uses zendesk and they don't hate it, but this is enough to make me consider the other options on their "top 10" list.

Is this post another SEO attempt to make them rank higher in OSS ticketing systems?

When the marketing team has a bit too much free-reign

the decision makers probably doesn't even know what open source really mean.

they read it on cio magazine and ZenDesk have "open source" api.

I'm positive everyone at Zendesk knows what open source is. This isnt a mistake. Whoever wrote it knew exactly what they were doing.

It sounds like you have never dealt with an aggressive marketing department before. They'll ask you to "bend the rules of your personal definitions" in order to let them do whatever they wish.

I'm sure its "open source" to employees at Zendesk

They’re not the only company to do this. “InVideo” (a totally not open source SaaS product) also does the same.

I think the question mark can be removed from the title.

Um providing an API endpoint to a closed, proprietary system, does not make one open source.

Reminds me how Comodo said they open sourced their EDR but in reality it is just some code thrown around commercial libraries and github comments about no one able to get it to compile.

Open source has an archaic definition of "open content" that does match what they're saying. Zendesk then appends the word "software" to it. They know what they are doing.

But the mere fact that you can read some of the tickets without signing up makes it "open source".


> Zendesk is an open API ticket system which means third-party developers can build new integrations on our platform

Clever segue from "open source", to open.

I bumped into this just yesterday, it's sad that the page ranks very high for "open source ticketing" :(

I'm not really surprised. Personally, I tend to avoid these 'comparisons' from websites that are somehow biased in promoting their own solutions, e.g. I wouldn't go to a website selling a text editor to find out the best text editors.

And they didn't even include iTop! I guess the revamp of the 3.0 afraid them this much!

Disclaimer: I contributed to iTop, but I seriously consider it as a better solution than Zendesk, especially since it is more customizable and has an integrated cmdb.

When a company lies in their advertising, typically you can take them to court and get relief.

If a car dealer advertises "free floormat with purchase", and they don't give you a floormat, you sue them. If it makes it all the way to the courtroom, it's an open-and-shut case.

Based on this advertising, I bet someone with the right lawyer could compel ZenDesk to release their source. In fact I hope this happens, then maybe companies will think twice before making false claims like this

> Based on this advertising, I bet someone with the right lawyer could compel ZenDesk to release their source.

That's not even remotely how the law works.

A random outsider couldn't do it obviously. But imagine if you had standing to sue, i.e. you signed up and paid for ZenDesk based on this advertising, and then later realized they were lying.

In that case, the plaintiff would sue for the damage caused by the lie, which would include the amount paid for the software.

The only case in which you might get the source code as a result is if you paid for the source code. Which is the complete opposite claim of what is being made on this page.

Yeah, you're probably right. But a guy can dream, can't he?


And the amount you can collect is limited by section 14.2 of their Master Subscription Agreement to the amount paid to them in the last 12 months. [0] To get more you would have to show they committed fraud or were grossly negligent, which could then invalidate the contract. IANAL but this stuff is pretty standard.

[0] https://www.zendesk.com/company/agreements-and-terms/master-...

You could ask for specific performance instead of money... or both.

You ca ask for whatever you want - but there’s absolutely no precedent for achieving the court requiring the source be released.

Only about 500 years of common law.

> Only about 500 years of common law.

I don't think that's true - common law would consider the contract void when broken or not properly met, and award damages, not enforce it.

If a builder doesn't finish building a wall they award damages - they don't march them back to your house and make them finish building. That's a pretty fundamental part of common law.

Look at the examples given in your own article - they aren't going to translate to this situation. They're talking about contracts involving unique items where simply cancelling the contract can't resolve it. If you buy something and what turns up isn't what you want you can just return it.

Yes, and source code might have far more value to the buyer than money.

Potentially so, but if there was never a contract to exchange money for source code, then there is no performance you'd be entitled to.

It doesn't logically make sense to concurrently argue that you were misled that the software is FOSS and believe that you exchanged money for source code.

Talk me through how that gets to a court order to release source code. What legislation or precedents are there for that? If there aren't any, how would a judge arrive at that decision?

My dreams have been thorougly dashed. I cede.

It should be, and I'd argue how it used to be.

Not at all. You can make them stop saying they're open source and you can get a refund + maybe some damages if you claim to have bought their product based on this false ad, but that's all. In no way are you ever going to convince a judge to order Zendesk to give you their code.

In the UK you can make a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority.


So cliche, but nonetheless true:

Stallman was right.

Somewhat related, last time when I posted about my forums platform[1] that I'm trying to get off the ground, someone here asked if it is open source so they can contribute. Now, I would love for it to be open source and have the community enhance the features (or even clone it for themselves), but I don't know how to set up an open source project. I'm guessing it is more than just zipping up the source files and making it available for download. Any pointers on how best to go about doing it? Any best practices?

[1] https://discoflip.com

Put your software in a VCS of some kind. Add an appropriate license from https://spdx.org/licenses/ . Make the source available on the internet.

Most people do this all via GitHub, GitLab, etc.

you could start by creating a repository on github and gitlab, they have resources to help you track your source code with git and push your code to your repository. Then now you code is available for everyone to see.

Next, you want to create a readme file so someone new to your project could read it and understand how the code works. You can also start creating issues of features / bugs you plan to do.

Do you use any version control management system like git, svn, or fossil? If not, your first step would likely setting up your project with one of them (most likely git) and then just pushing it to a service like github.

I will look into git/github. Thanks for the pointers.

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