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Old 01-07-2018, 01:08 AM   #1
caclowdus
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Why does open source have to be free?


It occurs to me that the influx of B2B open source software likely will mean major enterprises get to adopt these valuable products at little to no cost. It seems like these are the people who have all the money and currently have no where to spend it. Am I rejected by the open source community if I propose charging businesses for open source software?

Does anyone have any opinions on what the best product would be? Currently I'm considering:

Wasabi by Intuit
Planout by Facebook
And (the leader for allowing multiple languages) sixpack by Seatgeek

Any feedback is appreciated

Last edited by caclowdus; 01-07-2018 at 01:25 AM.
 
Old 01-07-2018, 01:35 AM   #2
astrogeek
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caclowdus View Post
It occurs to me that the influx of B2B open source software likely will mean major enterprises get to adopt these valuable products at little to no cost. It seems like these are the people who have all the money and currently have no where to spend it. Am I rejected by the open source community if I propose charging businesses for open source software?

If you buy the theory that price is based on value there's no reason it has to be extremely cheap either. It's quality code backed by a (soon to be) great company. Does this concept have merit?
First, it is important to recognize the difference between free as in no-cost, and free as in freedom when talking about software. The concept of FREE as in FREEDOM software is very important to grasp and should be a major selling point for free and open source software, although it is not often emphasized. Please see the FREEDOM link in my sig below for an excellent discussion of that subject.

I think that businesses are averse to the idealism of FREE software so the term Open Source was adopted to avoid the idealism and make it more market friendly.

Next, there are already multi-million and billion dollar "open source" companies (think RedHat for one, MariaDB for another), so making money off open source software is not a new concept!

The difference is that you don't sell the software itself, and you don't sell a license to use it - you sell access to support and other resources as a rule (again, think RedHat). Even with proprietary software you do not buy the software, you buy a license to use it for some period of time.

That last point, the limited time use license, is where FREEDOM software has the great advantage and should be a major selling point of open source software - the right of the business to continue using it does not expire! If they are not happy with the support provided by one vendor, they can in general drop that support and continue to use the software as is, to look for other sources of support or to support it themselves.

Making good money off support for open source software is already big business!

So look around at existing, successful open source software companies as models, free your mind of the idea of selling the software itself but rather selling the support, and choose your market!
 
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Old 01-07-2018, 02:18 AM   #3
caclowdus
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I see your point. My counter would be that we are entering a market where price point is set at a certain level. It's an economic argument around value creation justifying the cost. Also it's not an operating system where there's no recurring cost. There will be api calls, and compute resources that must be accounted for. The software isn't any cheaper to build, or market than the competing companies who aren't open source. For the non technical buyer price sends a signal about quality. The Red Hat model is tough. The Salesforce model isn't. What I like to emphasis around open source is YOU have the capacity to change the code and build out features. It's not up to a vendor to dictate where the product goes.
 
Old 01-07-2018, 03:37 AM   #4
Turbocapitalist
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Yes, selling software stopped being clever long ago. It was tried in some brief experiments in the 1980s and just one or two large companies have kepth the myth alive since then via deception in media they control through advertising and other influence. Speaking of advertising...

In addition to the companies named by Astrogeek, two obvious more obvious ones are Mozilla Corporation and Google LLC. The latter is well known to be a major advertising company but also has various other services. All of these are built around software. The former it pretty much only an advertising company pulling in over a half billion USD per year in revenue.

However, advertising is not the only business method that works. It's just the one that is quite visible.

Most automobile manufacturers are heavily into FOSS. Same for other sectors. The software is just a tool to help them get the job done.

One thing to watch out for is that there are an increasing number of "open core" type scams lately. The like to present themselves as being FOSS but are just a revisit to the defunct 1980s model of pretending to sell software.
 
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Old 01-07-2018, 07:33 AM   #5
caclowdus
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What kind of advertising is Mozilla doing? I know they keep their company name in a lot of their source code. Are you aware of any other methods?
 
Old 01-07-2018, 07:45 AM   #6
Turbocapitalist
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caclowdus View Post
What kind of advertising is Mozilla doing? I know they keep their company name in a lot of their source code. Are you aware of any other methods?
That's still backwards. Companies pay Mozilla, not vice versa. Much of that is coming from from the search engines. The Mozilla Foundation is above the Mozilla Corporation. They publish regular reports on where they get their money. You can dig in the reports to see how the money is shuffled around and so on, but the point is that they rake in a lot of money every year.

There was an ERP system I was going to point out, too, but it just got swallowed by its nearest competitor.

Instead, look at the data mining and influence peddling giant Facebook. It makes all its money from its software, which is as far as I know still all FOSS.

Software by itself is not a product and hasn't been since the 1980s. It is a tool to get something done and that 'something' is where the money comes from. Whether that 'something' is datamining, selling cars, selling planes, or something else.
 
Old 01-07-2018, 07:50 AM   #7
caclowdus
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The ERP model would be the one I'm more interested in. Software is a rather nebulous term. Perhaps Saas, or Paas would be a more accurate description. By swallowed do you mean purchased?
 
Old 01-07-2018, 08:03 AM   #8
Turbocapitalist
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caclowdus View Post
The ERP model would be the one I'm more interested in. Software is a rather nebulous term. Perhaps Saas, or Paas would be a more accurate description. By swallowed do you mean purchased?
Yes, I mean purchased. Their model worked well for them for many years but I don't have any indirect connection anymore to know why they cashed out. Selling to a competitor is often a comfortable retirement method.

It was neither SAAS nor PAAS. They had a base ERP which they customized for their customers, for a fee, and would get companies set up on, for a fee, and would come in for extra support if ever needed, for a fee. It was fully FOSS and companies coud do as much or as little as they wshed on their own, or contract for the rest, if I understood their model correctly.

There was/is also small, highly specialized database company which has existed for a few decades using a similar model. The software is FOSS and not hard to set up but requires some highly specialized domain expertise. Since it was rather rare for both technical skills and domain expertise to show up in the same organization, let alone the same person, many found/find it easier to pay them to get set up or make changes when needed but take care of minor stuff and maintenence themselves.

Edit: again the main point is the freedom which although valuable is usually hard to put a concrete dollar value on.

Edit2: now that I think of it, there are several such small, specialized database companies with similar models. They make good money but nothing yet to drawn attacks from Oracle -- yet.

Last edited by Turbocapitalist; 01-07-2018 at 08:07 AM.
 
Old 01-07-2018, 08:38 AM   #9
ntubski
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caclowdus View Post
It occurs to me that the influx of B2B open source software likely will mean major enterprises get to adopt these valuable products at little to no cost. It seems like these are the people who have all the money and currently have no where to spend it. Am I rejected by the open source community if I propose charging businesses for open source software?
Not directly, but in a perfectly competitive market the price of a product approaches the marginal cost to produce it. The marginal cost of producing another copy of a software program is close to zero. That's why companies selling software want to keep it proprietary: they maintain a monopoly over production of copies of the program and can set the price higher. Otherwise anyone you sell the software to is free to turn around and sell or give it out themselves.

PS, the FSF is anti-SaaS(S), see https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/who-d...lly-serve.html
https://opensource.org/ seems to have no position on it.
 
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Old 01-07-2018, 08:41 AM   #10
caclowdus
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I see your point but in reality this isn't happening. Companies are releasing their code but other companies are still coming out with projects of their own. No one is implementing another companies projects. I'm referring specifically to A/B testing software like wasabi, sixpack, and planout. Maybe use cases are different in other areas

I was unaware of the anti-saas stance. Perhaps I'm looking for help from the wrong community in that case

Last edited by caclowdus; 01-07-2018 at 08:43 AM.
 
Old 01-07-2018, 09:13 AM   #11
ntubski
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caclowdus View Post
I see your point but in reality this isn't happening. Companies are releasing their code but other companies are still coming out with projects of their own. No one is implementing another companies projects. I'm referring specifically to A/B testing software like wasabi, sixpack, and planout.
Maybe because the authors are already distributing the software at no charge, so there is no point in anyone else trying to do so?

Quote:
I was unaware of the anti-saas stance. Perhaps I'm looking for help from the wrong community in that case
Sorry, I should have mentioned above, there is a split between Free Software and Open Source philosophies. Only the former seems to be anti-saas.

https://opensource.org/faq#free-software
Quote:
The term "free software" is older, and is reflected in the name of the Free Software Foundation (FSF), an organization founded in 1985 to protect and promote free software. The term "open source" was coined by Christine Peterson and adopted in 1998 by the founders of the Open Source Initiative. Like the FSF, the OSI's founders supported the development and distribution of free software, but they disagreed with the FSF about how to promote it, believing that software freedom was primarily a practical issue rather than an ideological one (see for example the entry "How is `open source' related to `free software'?" from the OSI's original 1998 FAQ page).
https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-...the-point.html
Quote:
Not all of the users and developers of free software agreed with the goals of the free software movement. In 1998, a part of the free software community splintered off and began campaigning in the name of “open source.” The term was originally proposed to avoid a possible misunderstanding of the term “free software,” but it soon became associated with philosophical views quite different from those of the free software movement.

Some of the supporters of open source considered the term a “marketing campaign for free software,” which would appeal to business executives by highlighting the software's practical benefits, while not raising issues of right and wrong that they might not like to hear. Other supporters flatly rejected the free software movement's ethical and social values. Whichever their views, when campaigning for open source, they neither cited nor advocated those values. The term “open source” quickly became associated with ideas and arguments based only on practical values, such as making or having powerful, reliable software.
 
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Old 01-07-2018, 10:03 AM   #12
wpeckham
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caclowdus View Post
I see your point but in reality this isn't happening. Companies are releasing their code but other companies are still coming out with projects of their own. No one is implementing another companies projects. I'm referring specifically to A/B testing software like wasabi, sixpack, and planout. Maybe use cases are different in other areas

I was unaware of the anti-saas stance. Perhaps I'm looking for help from the wrong community in that case
That assumption does not hold up. Companies ARE implementing free open source projects as internal projects, you simply do not READ about it because it stopped being NEWS in the previous century. Code that is released as open source may never die, it just finds multiple new homes. At times multiple open source projects adopt pieces of GOOD code that has been released by another project or company.

Last edited by wpeckham; 01-07-2018 at 10:10 AM.
 
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Old 01-07-2018, 11:47 AM   #13
Turbocapitalist
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Originally Posted by wpeckham View Post
Companies ARE implementing free open source projects as internal projects, you simply do not READ about it because it stopped being NEWS in the previous century.
Indeed. Back in 2000, IBM invested about $1 billion USD in Linux. They earned back that investment within the year. I checked back with a contact two or so years after that and was told that FOSS was no longer newsworthy and just a normal part of doing business.

It's used everywhere and if the company is not redistributing anything there is no obligation to announce or publish the source code.

Here are two fairly random examples. Like IBM, Apple is a hardware company:

https://www.visteon.com/products/ele...formation.html
https://opensource.apple.com/release/macos-1013.html

At least up until Steve Jobs' demise, Apple was very into FOSS. It still uses it a lot now but is heading in weird directions now that the head is probably not using his own products.
 
Old 01-08-2018, 08:15 AM   #14
sundialsvcs
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I think that "open source" licensing came about because of the hideous cost of developing computer software. In the traditional software model, one company must create and publish and maintain the software – distribution is much easier than it used to be – and must pay for it all (including the startup "seed money" loans made by capital investors) out of profits. Many companies failed to do so. Many a company with an excellent product died on the vine because they couldn't make a go of it financially, and usually their product died with them. (There were a few very-notable exceptions, such as Blender, which emerged from the "NaN" bankruptcy-estate due to the generosity – and, the prescient foresight – of its investors.)

"Free" software is anything but(!) free, in the financial sense. (Even if you're doing the work for nothing, there's the "opportunity cost" arising from the fact that you could have, instead, been doing equivalent work for your regular salary.)

The "open source" model appeared because "many hands make light work." And it was made possible by licensing agreements such as GPL, which were subsequently tested and upheld world-wide by the courts. This is what makes it possible for various individuals and companies (including extremely-large ones) to develop key technologies cooperatively, and then to employ those technologies in their free or proprietary offerings. Their rights are clearly defined and legally protected.

For instance, you wouldn't have the modern Macintosh, or the iPhone, or substantial pieces of Microsoft Windows, or the Android, or this web site, or most if not all of the technology that runs the Internet, or ... or ... or ... were it not for the success of this legally-enforceable business model. And we wouldn't be here, doing any of what we are doing, taking advantage of expansive technologies that were cooperatively developed and maintained by many. "The Internet" simply wouldn't have happened, and we'd still be using "flip-phones, at best."

So, while it is entirely true that contributors choose to make their wares available in source-code form and do not charge money for them, it is anything but the case that what they have contributed is "free." Neither is it anything less than (now) a multi-trillion(!) dollar international business.

None of this would exist today without the open-source model, which dissipated the expense of developing truly-great things while commoditizing the benefits. Benefits which could not otherwise be obtained. (Many a company tried. Many a company failed completely. And this goes far, far beyond what any one "company," no matter how large and wealthy, could ever do.)

Last edited by sundialsvcs; 01-08-2018 at 08:22 AM.
 
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