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Ask Slashdot: Can Closed Source Software Transition To the GPL Successfully?

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the making-a-change dept.

Open Source 99

colinneagle writes "Open Source guy Bryan Lunduke has experienced the difficulties of migrating a successful closed source project to an open license first-hand, but still believes — or at least wants to believe — that it can be done. He writes: 'Occasionally, someone makes a go of it, to take a good piece of closed source software and release the source code under a nice, open license. In fact, I did just that about a year ago. I tried to take a software development tool (along with some video games) that I had developed (and was earning a good living from) and migrate them to the GPL with continued development funded via donations. The results were...disastrous. Within a very short period of time of going Open Source, the total funding for the projects fell to less than 20% of what was being brought in via sales when the software was Closed Source, which almost completely impeded the ability to fund continued development. Luckily, I was able to recover and get things back on track, but it was definitely not a fun experience.'" How viable is migrating a closed source project to something open?

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99 comments

Aa (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42819197)

Lunduke's software is shit. I'm surprised anyone actually pays for that junk.

Re:Aa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42819703)

ROFL. Terrible example.

Re:Aa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42820163)

Exactly. Lunduke's software is bought mostly by retards who don't know better. When it was open sourced, it was shown to all just how shitty his software really is.

OpenOffice (5, Insightful)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | about a year ago | (#42819219)

OpenOffice started as StarOffice. Seems pretty viable.

Re:OpenOffice (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42819285)

If you look at it from an Open Source perspective Open (and Libre) Office are great projects.
Looking at them from a business perspective, it is hard to make money from OO.o. There is a reason Oracle dumped it at the Apache foundation.

Re:OpenOffice (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about a year ago | (#42819361)

It's hard to make money from LibreOffice, because it's competing against a monopoly market leader...
If the market was more open and competitive it would be much easier, primarily by offering support, training and customisation services around it.

Re:OpenOffice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42819593)

Almost no one would pay for any of that.

Re:OpenOffice (3, Informative)

TheLink (130905) | about a year ago | (#42819601)

It was hard to make money from OpenOffice back then not because it was competing against a monopoly.

It's because for a very long time Star Office/OpenOffice/etc was crap. It was really crap, and I'm not talking about poor compatibility with MSO, just using its own document formats you still had crappy formatting bugs. Plenty of other terrible bugs- step by step search and replace within selection was broken (it would replace the entire selection!). MSO has/had it share of bugs but they are/were mostly not as bad as that.

It was so crap that I was telling people to use Kingsoft Office as an MSO alternative instead of OOo.

Says you. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42820117)

"It's because for a very long time Star Office/OpenOffice/etc was crap."

Says you.

However, it's as easy to claim MS Office was crap. Or WP Suite.

But the reason why office suites make no money, closed or open, is that "if it doesn't do what MS Office does, it's broken". This includes breaking. If MS Office would break it, then it is the fault of the data or other program that created the data.

Re:Says you. (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year ago | (#42820755)

The only remarkable thing about msoffice is the fact that it is the most compatible against itself. Beyond that, you could use any other competing product quite effectively. This isn't just an Open Source issue. This also impacts all of the proprietary Windows based competitors.

There will always be plenty of trolls waiting in the wings to help spread FUD about anything that's not the one true brand.

Re:Says you. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42830493)

And that Microsoft Office has a better feature set (for example the ability to specify error bar data in Excel, which is really important in scientific contexts; Calc can only do fixed and percentage errors) and MSO's features tend to be less buggy.
Of course, there are bugs in MSO and missing features, but if you're working with the system in a regular office kind of situation, you aren't going to hit them much. In contrast with Open/Libre Office which will draw the blood from under your nails.

Re:Says you. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42820757)

Real easy to claim stuff, but you'll have to back it up with better examples.

MSO is crap, but OOo was a lot more crap. Go look at the OOo bugs of those days. You wouldn't see many of those bugs in MSO - most would have been fixed before release.

Open Office impress was terrible even when you saved stuff in the OOo native format. It would lose formatting or keep doing very annoying stuff. You could change the font size and it would forget that font size when you did some other change.

Re:Says you. (1)

TheLink (130905) | about a year ago | (#42828843)

Says me and many other people.

https://issues.apache.org/ooo/show_bug.cgi?id=15501 [apache.org]
https://issues.apache.org/ooo/show_bug.cgi?id=65293 [apache.org]
https://issues.apache.org/ooo/show_bug.cgi?id=118739 [apache.org]
https://issues.apache.org/ooo/show_bug.cgi?id=118790 [apache.org]

As you can see the bugs aren't fringe stuff that only 0.1% of the people will encounter.

Maybe those OOo bugs are all fixed now, but we were talking about the past and why it was hard to make money from the product. My claim remains that the product was too crap to make substantial money from. How much would you pay for such crap? I wouldn't pay anything at all.

Re:OpenOffice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42819625)

It's hard to make money from LibreOffice, because it's competing against a monopoly market leader...

That's exactly the reason they open sourced it in the first place -- it was even harder for it to compete as a closed source product.

Re:OpenOffice (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#42824691)

Who would ever buy support, training, and customization for an office suite? Does this really happen? And if they do buy these services, aren't they normally paying a third party consultant? It just doesn't seem like a viable business model. At the very least you don't want the actual developers who are doing real work to be pulled off doing training or helping customers with integration.

Re:OpenOffice (1)

exomondo (1725132) | about a year ago | (#42828205)

Who would ever buy support, training, and customization for an office suite? Does this really happen? And if they do buy these services, aren't they normally paying a third party consultant?

Im sure large companies would pay for support and training, the assumption is that the best people to go to would be the company/foundation that maintains the product - but who knows whether that's viable (location, cost, time) or the services are even provided by them.
As for development it's probably the same deal, sure there would be some hobbyist volunteers doing bits and pieces but if it was adopted largely in the corporate world i would imagine the cost of paying 3rd parties to go through the design, development and testing process would mean they would probably go for some domain-specific or even company-specific features that wouldn't end up in the mainline, or potentially even proprietary in-house extensions rather than spending all that money and just giving it away. Most of those companies would probably prefer to just license a proprietary system.

Re:OpenOffice (5, Insightful)

jimicus (737525) | about a year ago | (#42819417)

True, but TFS is actually asking a slightly different question to the headline.

The full question is "Can a commercial software project continue to bring in enough money to fund itself if it goes open source?". And that is a very good question.

As regards Star/OpenOffice, Sun bought Star Division. They made StarOffice 5.2 available free (as in beer) but when they opened the source, a **lot** of the code had been licensed from third parties. Sun didn't have the rights to open source that, so they had to subsidise OpenOffice for years while the code that couldn't be opensourced was rewritten. I'd be astonished if they ever covered their costs from it.

Re:OpenOffice (0)

godefroi (52421) | about a year ago | (#42820133)

The full question is "Can a commercial software project continue to bring in enough money to fund itself if it goes open source?". And that is a very good question.

You aren't supposed to bring in money. You are supposed to start wearing sandals (preferably simply the open-toed remains of what used to be sturdy shoes), stop shaving and grow a long beard, hold out a tin cup and ask passersby for consideration, and live a happy, simple life, knowing that you've done good in the world.

Right?

Re:OpenOffice (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42821677)

You say that as if it were a bad thing. It entirely depends on your goal.

goals (1)

coyote_oww (749758) | about a year ago | (#42827313)

I have a goal of owning my own house, since my mom doesn't own hers, and doesn't have a basement. Open source, open toed sandals, and a long beard seem unlikely to move me meaningfully toward this goal.

Additionally, I have 2 sick brothers - my mom will eventually wind up relying on me. So I pay my own bills or they don't get paid. Dad and 4 grandparents are dead already, leaving nothing. Mom is essentially broke, 2 brothers are both broke and on disability. Some of us have responsibilities and f*ing around with giving away our time for free will not meet those responsibilities. Unless you can get everyone else to work for free too, in which case i'm becoming a full-time gamer.

Re:OpenOffice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42823547)

The full question is "Can a commercial software project continue to bring in enough money to fund itself if it goes open source?". And that is a very good question.

It's a good question, but it's one that has been thoroughly answered already. And the answer is that it depends on the software and the target audience. If you make a tool that targets developers, they're not going to pay you to implement features, they'll just fork it and do it themselves. And they're unlikely to pay you for support either. But if you make an enterprise product, the chances go way up that they'll pay for support, features and possibly a friendlier license.

Likewise, it matters how invested your users are in your product. If you make a tool that lots of people use for less than 5 min per day, donationware is probably not going to work. But if you make a tool that fewer people use but for a significant chunk of their work, they're much more likely to donate.

Know your audience. That one developer didn't, tried it, and it blew up in his face says nothing that we didn't already know.

Re:OpenOffice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42820643)

You're right: Sun Microsystems is really rolling in the $$ now, aren't they? ..oh wait.

Re:OpenOffice (1)

TranquilVoid (2444228) | about a year ago | (#42827539)

Exactly. Lunduke's stats must be wrong. It's been proven time and time again on Slashdot that free distribution equals free advertising, and leads to even more sales than when it's tightly controlled.

But seriously, you would expect some shrinkage of donations. There is quite a lot of overlap between libre and gratis.

The Wrong Questions (4, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | about a year ago | (#42819237)

But is there a good, reliable way to fund this sort of transition? To allow a company (however large or small) to stay in business while transitioning to an Open Source license?

This article is asking the wrong questions. The question should be: what are the appropriate scenarios to move a closed source license to the GPL?

Because his scenario doesn't sound like one of those cases. If your sole source of income is taking something you've written that you consider a finished product worthy of sales and selling licenses to it then the GPL route for that entire product is most likely not for you. Now, if you can extract a framework from these games/tools that you feel could be improved by the open source community but your specific work (like textures and dialogue for the games or complex/efficient algorithms for the tool) where you feel your worth is demonstrated remains proprietary, then you can open source those frameworks and benefit from community improvements.

When I write software, it belongs to the person that bought it from me. They are the sole copyright or whatever holders of that code. Only once has a customer open sourced it and several times it's just been shelved even though I've told them that open sourcing it couldn't possibly hurt anything. I don't do a licensing model for my income, I do a "Software as a Service" model. You pay me, you get what I write. I'm like a drug dealer except the first time is still expensive. I know you'll come back for more, everyone always does! Now if ten years down the road you're looking at my code and it's outdated or missing features and I died in that majestic fireworks in space accident then just open source it and see what happens.

Projects that don't start natively as open source rarely transition well to the GPL in my opinion but when they do, they're not a cash cow based on a licensing model sold as a solitary piece of software. I'm a huge fan of the GPL but you had to have seen that one coming a mile away, right? There are scenarios for open sourcing a closed source project. You've got mouths to feed, this isn't one of them. And once it's GPL'd you better start offering your services to augment that software and go back to working your ass off because I don't know how you're going to get licensing revenue again.

Re:The Wrong Questions (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42819389)

I assume the author didn't GPL the entire product, but just the game engine. The art, music, video, and sound assets were probably not put under the GPL and would still be under copyright, and the author could continue to sell their games while allowing contributions to the engine. If ports were made to other platforms then the author could monetize their product on those platforms as well and that would offer more avenues for revenue. That's kind of what happened with Wolf3D, Doom, Quake 3, etc.

Re:The Wrong Questions (4, Insightful)

doti (966971) | about a year ago | (#42819425)

More importantly, why the hell did he stopped selling the game, and started getting donations instead?
It could be made GPL and still be sold.

I don't think the number of people who would copy a version someone compiled from the GPL version and published on a website without donating would be very different from the number of people who would just pirate the game if it was not GPL.

Re:The Wrong Questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42819473)

"I don't do a licensing model for my income, I do a 'Software as a Service' model. You pay me, you get what I write. "

What you described is not Software as a Service. It is work-for-hire or work "made for hire."

Re:The Wrong Questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42819477)

I don't do a licensing model for my income, I do a "Software as a Service" model. You pay me, you get what I write.

That's not what Software as a Service is. That's a Work for Hire model. Software as a Service is effectively "the cloud".

Re:The Wrong Questions (3, Insightful)

Xylantiel (177496) | about a year ago | (#42819499)

I do a "Software as a Service" model. You pay me, you get what I write.

Just to be clear, this is NOT "software as a service". SAAS is where they pay you to use the software (for example through a web interface) but they do not get either the compiled code or source code. You are working as a contract developer. In copyright terms it is a "work for hire."

I agree that use of GPL completely depends on how the payment-for-work model for a given piece of software works. If one's revenue depends on artificial scarcity, GPL is not really viable as its intention is to remove artificial scarcity.

Re:The Wrong Questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42830715)

It's "Software (Development) as a Service" in this case.

The development part was (quite obviously, I thought when reading it) implied. The original author might disagree, in which case I have misunderstood.

Re:The Wrong Questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42820253)

The problem with Open sourcing software that was proprietary has a lot more to do with the motives.

For example, you could open source a game ENGINE but the not game itself, because the copyrights on the game assets ( artwork/sounds/etc ) may have been licensed or created in-house but without someone who is intimately familiar with the assets, it's just safer to open source the game code provided no licensed third party libraries were used (eg Miles Sound System Library.) Doing this is less harmful unless it's a multiplayer game.

When a game is multiplayer, open sourcing the game means that Multiplayer is no longer trustable. This goes triple for MMO games. When a game is going to be end-of-lifed, it makes sense to open source it so the game can continue to exist for those who wish to still play it, but once it's no longer financially viable to operate, just let it go. Open source the server software so people can SOLO-PLAY the content should they want a nostalgia trip.

With productivity software you have a different issue. Because there's no recurring revenue model to pay for any licensed parts, you'd have to first find free alternatives to anything that was a paid license, and a lot of productivity software uses numerous third party libraries for processing image and fonts.

Likewise Photographic, Video and 3D modeling content creation software has it's own problems since if there's no revenue model to continue development, you're now entirely dependent on the community for new features and fixes.

So the long and short of it is that you should plan to open source the software at the start of the project, and put cut points in the source code where the proprietary licensed parts can be cut out, but the community could re-implement should it be necessary.

Work For Hire (2)

Tenebrousedge (1226584) | about a year ago | (#42823917)

When I write software for other people, I explicitly retain the rights to anything I write, unless the client pays extra.

As a contractor there's no reason to do work-for-hire. Legally it will not be considered such unless it [a] falls into a protected category, and [b] an agreement is signed saying that the work is "for hire".

And yes, the reason that I retain rights is so that I can open-source anything I please. We can have a separate discussion about the copyrights, but your words had better be writ large on a stack of banknotes.

Between open source products, SaaS, and the Internet in general, the idea of selling copies of software seems to be dying an unlamented death.

Re:Work For Hire (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about a year ago | (#42834199)

From a demand POV. From a supply POV, question is does writing open source software get supported by the various models that are supposed to fund it - be it advertizing, SaaS or donations? If they don't, then in the long run fewer & fewer people - no matter how dedicated, will want to write software that is needed. The only things one will see will be work of hobbyists, whose day job is something else totally, and who will write certain software that they enjoy, which may or may not be what the market demands.

It is a good idea to retain rights, albeit for a slightly different reason. What one could do is stipulate that whenever binaries change hands, the source code has to accompany it as well. This is consistent w/ the GPL. However, make the copyleft thing totally voluntary, and allow any players downstream to disallow sharing of the software. That retains the ability of the ISV to ensure that the only way the software can be obtained is from the original ISV, by preventing customers from becoming re-distributors. Do this, and open source will happily co-exist w/ profitability.

Licensing (1)

Tenebrousedge (1226584) | about a year ago | (#42835751)

The business model of selling copies of software is becoming scarce. You're essentially arguing that this is solely due to licensing. I see it more as a market adjustment where we're collectively deciding to treat non-scarce commodities realistically.

SaaS is the same pig (selling copies) in a different blanket, so you should adjust your rant accordingly. The three pillars of the open source model are selling services, donations, and advertising. You might add a fourth in monetizing big data, but that pretty much tends to go hand in hand with advertising anyway.

The idea that people will stop writing software if they can't sell it is ludicrous. Taken to a logical extreme, you're implying that if you could not sell MS Office, people would not need word processors. If there is one concept that needs to be forever laid to rest as an argument, it is that people will stop doing something intrinsic to human nature because of some external phenomenon. People will stop writing code, and needing to have code written, just after we create the last piece of art, and sell it as the last business transaction. Approximately never, in other words.

Now, as far as your proposed licensing goes, since you haven't stipulated terms under which the binaries can change hands, they can't. Simply providing software to someone does not grant them the right to redistribute it. You must explicitly grant someone the right to modify and redistribute copyrighted works, or abrogate these rights by making the work public domain. Whether or not they have source code is pointless if they have no legal right to do anything but read it. So, as stated, your scheme is not compatible with the GPL and doesn't fall into any meaningful category of "free software".

Further, unless you've made something public domain, there's no way for downstream vendors to change the terms under which the code is distributed. If you have made it public domain, your ability to enforce control is null and void.

In summary, your licensing as written is a great way for customers to get sued for copyright infringement. Fixing that flaw either makes it public domain or mostly identical to some sort of copyleft license. To summarize the summary, you may want to read more about copyrights and basic economics. To summarize the summary of the summary, people are a problem.*

*with apologies to D.A.

Re:Licensing (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about a year ago | (#42842837)

The business model of selling copies of software is becoming scarce. You're essentially arguing that this is solely due to licensing. I see it more as a market adjustment where we're collectively deciding to treat non-scarce commodities realistically.

SaaS is the same pig (selling copies) in a different blanket, so you should adjust your rant accordingly. The three pillars of the open source model are selling services, donations, and advertising. You might add a fourth in monetizing big data, but that pretty much tends to go hand in hand with advertising anyway.

I'd add a 4th pillar - actually, it was one of the first pillars, but is increasingly rare - hardware. Like Intel can afford to promote FOSS, since they're not in the software business at all - software is just an enabler to sell their hardware. But this is an increasingly rarer model, w/ most CPUs either dead (PA-RISC, Alpha, Clipper) or stagnant (SPARC, POWER, MIPS). But if a company did come up w/ a new CPU w/ a killer advantage over both x64 and ARM, this sort of a model would work for them as well.

FOSS is good from a customer POV alone. For instance, say a company wants to buy (they have a software budget, they are willing to spend and don't necessarily want 'free') a software that they can control in terms of its future - they get to retire it IFF needed, port it to any other exotic hardware they have that the ISV does not necessarily support, and graft things on to them. The advantage for them here is that they have control over their IT budgets. For a supplier/ISV, Open Source has two advantages - it lowers their development costs by enabling them to leverage community efforts, and also, it enables them to avoid dedicating developer resources to customized solutions, and just focus on the mainline products that they are developing.

The idea that people will stop writing software if they can't sell it is ludicrous. Taken to a logical extreme, you're implying that if you could not sell MS Office, people would not need word processors. If there is one concept that needs to be forever laid to rest as an argument, it is that people will stop doing something intrinsic to human nature because of some external phenomenon. People will stop writing code, and needing to have code written, just after we create the last piece of art, and sell it as the last business transaction. Approximately never, in other words.

I didn't say anything about the demand. Supply and demand rules would indicate that if there is a big demand for something, the price elasticity would increase, and people would be willing to pay up to a certain point for the product in question. That is the demand end of it. Now, from the supply end, they would assess whether that price point for a given market size would be adequate to support the business and keep the lights on. If it doesn't, you're not going to see at least a quality solution to the demand in question. When you have hobbyists, as opposed to paid professionals doing it, they do it at their own comfort level, and are not constrained by things like customer demand, since they're not getting paid.

Now, as far as your proposed licensing goes, since you haven't stipulated terms under which the binaries can change hands, they can't. Simply providing software to someone does not grant them the right to redistribute it. You must explicitly grant someone the right to modify and redistribute copyrighted works, or abrogate these rights by making the work public domain. Whether or not they have source code is pointless if they have no legal right to do anything but read it. So, as stated, your scheme is not compatible with the GPL and doesn't fall into any meaningful category of "free software".

The model I proposed is that whoever writes the original software spells out

  1. Whether the software (i.e. binaries and source both together) can be redistributed or not (i.e. copyleft or not)
  2. Whether those redistribution rights, if granted, can be curtailed downstream (i.e. copyfree or not)

Now, if the software is copyleft, chances are it is GPL compatible, and the ISV doesn't have a problem, for whatever reason, in seeing limited revenues from its sales at the end of the day. If it is copyfree - like the BSD licenses, such as X11, MIT, ICS, et al, then it's like copyleft, except that any recipient in between can close it and continue business as usual. My discussion is where people have all the rights except one - the right to re-distribute. For instance, in my above example, company S sells a software X to company C, w/ a clause that C can do ANYTHING w/ it EXCEPT redistribute. C agrees, since all they are interested in is using that software in-house, porting it to a legacy platform they have that is not supported, and deciding themselves how long they want to keep it maintained (i.e. until the old boxes go tits up). They complete the transaction, and both are happy. C takes the code, ports it to their existing hardware and creates software Y, and then has their own development team building enhancements to Y that solve the business requirements of their various departments. But C never puts Y up in the market in competition to X. And it's up to S & C whether C feeds back the differences b/w Y & X back to S.

Now, this is superior to proprietary solutions for the customer. Let's say S makes major updates to X1 and comes up w/ X2. It's up to C on whether to stay w/ X1 or not. C could well fork Y internally and follow its own path totally. They are not forced by a Microsoft to move to, say Windows 7 if XP is working perfectly for them. They are not forced by an HP to buy Itanium servers if their in-house AlphaServers running OVMS is working perfectly for them. Imagine if OpenVMS was under this sort of license from DEC - it would still be alive today, along w/ the Alpha. Essentially, customers get to control the future spending of their IT resources, and apply it only where needed, as opposed to anywhere that their ISV feels like.

For the ISV, it's superior to complete GPL solutions, since it preserves all the advantages of open source for both customer and supplier, and it gets rid of redistribution, thereby keeping the supplier's market intact. The ISV provides both binaries and source to customers, while the customer only develops and uses it for themselves, and doesn't become a competitor to the ISV. The only 'loser', so to speak, are those devs who want to take the product w/ its sources, deck it up and then sell it in competition w/ the original, and that's the only thing that re-distribution would disallow.

Further, unless you've made something public domain, there's no way for downstream vendors to change the terms under which the code is distributed. If you have made it public domain, your ability to enforce control is null and void.

In summary, your licensing as written is a great way for customers to get sued for copyright infringement. Fixing that flaw either makes it public domain or mostly identical to some sort of copyleft license. To summarize the summary, you may want to read more about copyrights and basic economics. To summarize the summary of the summary, people are a problem.*

*with apologies to D.A.

I've never claimed above, or anywhere else, that what I am suggesting is 'free' software. It's not, and I deliberately avoid the use of such nebulous words. Yeah, it's copyrighted, but in what I suggested, some of the copyright is waived in return for the no-redistribution clause. Current copyleft models, such as GPL, are a Lose-Win model - win for the customer, but lose for the supplier, since the customer can simply redistribute the software to anybody they like, effectively limiting the supplier's market. This one that I suggested is win-win - supplier knows that customer won't erode his market by giving away copies where they can be sold, while customer knows that as a result of getting the source, all they need is their own software engineering staff, and they can maintain them independently of whether the ISV supports it or not, or even whether the ISV survives or not. Had this model been there for, say, OpenVMS, you wouldn't see anybody retiring perfectly good AlphaServers for Itaniums, since software consumers would dictate whether or not the software they are using should be retired or not.

Re:Licensing (1)

Tenebrousedge (1226584) | about a year ago | (#42867185)

There can be no connection between open source and the end of programming as a profession. The open-source hobbyist programmer is substantially in the minority. As far as can be measured, most open-source development is paid. For large projects this is invariably the case.

The necessity for the existence of the software vendor, or the necessity to preserve any rights for such, has not been established. You can talk all you want about how good it is for the customer, but you're not optimizing with their profit in mind, so let's be honest about that. Also, distributing the source and expecting that people will not copy it is wildly optimistic.

It must be a bizarre world you live in. Selling copies of software is almost quaint.

Re:Licensing (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about a year ago | (#42869045)

Also, distributing the source and expecting that people will not copy it is wildly optimistic.

I'm talking about legally. Illegally, well, people pirate Windows as well, despite all the roadblocks of Microsoft.

Re:The Wrong Questions (1)

Wolfrider (856) | about a year ago | (#42832907)

--Thank you. This guy had obviously good intentions, but bad execution of a good idea. You don't give away the only golden goose you have.

Poor wording (4, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | about a year ago | (#42819243)

I read the question and though, "What? How can it be hard not to succeed? You just switch the license." Then I read the summary and realized the real question was "Can closed source software transition to the gpl profitably?" That is a question I understand a lot better.

I don't know a clear answer. I do know that donations for that kind of product are not too likely to be a good way to bring in income.

Re:Poor wording (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42819517)

Even then, simply switching the license isn't always possible. Non-trivial applications regularly use 3rd party code and you're not legally allowed to change the licensing on that code. If the license of that code is incompatible with the GPL then you're going to run into issues.

Re:Poor wording (1)

mitzampt (2002856) | about a year ago | (#42820983)

Actually the answer is merit. In order to have profit with an open source project it needs to be reasonably good and damn useful. Also always expect poor donations until enough people get to know your product.

My projects (and I believe most open source projects) started by scratching an itch. In each case developer's itch... Commercial products usually start by attempting to scratch a known itch for the intended audience. The transition to open source from closed source is successful when the project in question successfully scratches an itch, by the aforementioned 'damn' amount, and it draws (and allows, by design) people with the itch scratched to contribute.

You need a compatible business model (5, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | about a year ago | (#42819249)

Surely, if your business model relies on selling copies of your software, then going GPL is not going to work. What was he expecting?

Re:You need a compatible business model (4, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about a year ago | (#42819407)

This really can't be moderated highly enough. A donation model is nice in theory, but very few people donate. The main reason for open sourcing software is that software is not your core market and you want to lower development costs. Once you open source the code that you are using, even a small number of external contributors counts as a net win. If your business is selling software, then you need some incentive for people to pay you. For proprietary software, it's simple: they can't use it unless they pay. For open source, they can use it and copy it for free, so why would they pay you? Typically, the answer is that they want to be able to influence the direction of future versions, for example by having bugs that affect them or features that they want prioritised.

Re:You need a compatible business model (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42820191)

On a counter note, I would argue that he is not talking about the transition to GPL. He is talking about the transition to donation ware. These are two different things. He can slap a GPL license on his stuff, and, especially if it needs to be compiled, license as GPL and make the source available. Depending on the price of the software he is selling, many people are just going to buy the binary rather than trying to figure out how to set their environment up to compile it - this isn't Linux where you can do a simple ./configure, make and make install. If a developer is using the tool as a productive part of her/his job, they will pay the cost to get the binary - it isn't worth their time unless your software is seriously buggy enough that they feel the need to change it. Likewise with a video game - the average video game user isn't going to bother trying to compile the binary - that usually isn't the fun part.

The thing you might find others doing is redistributing your compiled binary. To this, I would argue, you still have an advantage in that you have an established user base, an established brand (presumably) and have people that are trusting you to deliver quality, stable, virus/malware free software. In the current age of viruses and malware, this is important. The choice tends towards paying the money to get it from the source, or getting it from some dodgy source where it may or may not be what they are expecting.

TL;DR - GPL != donationware.

Re:You need a compatible business model (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about a year ago | (#42822945)

This is correct in theory, except that in practice, if he is selling GPLed software, any of his customers can legally take the whole thing, put it on an FTP server and make it available for free to the entire world, and nobody who knows about it would ever buy it from him again. In short, making something GPL destroys his revenue stream due to the copyleft aspect of the license.

As TheRaven64 described, the only reason for making a closed source project open sourced is to lower development costs, and that the software itself is not the item that earns revenue for the company to begin with. Essentially, such a company would usually make money from an alternative, such as advertizing, services or hardware.

Morph your business model! (5, Funny)

drfuchs (599179) | about a year ago | (#42820109)

You have to go on tour, and charge for live performances of the bits you created.

Re:Morph your business model! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42825067)

... and sell the T shirts

Re:You need a compatible business model (2)

TheSpoom (715771) | about a year ago | (#42820767)

He should have done what Blender did and open-sourced only after getting enough donations to make it worth his while.

Planning your business model in advance is generally preferred over just trying something and seeing what works, at least when you're talking about your livelihood, or all at once as in this case.

For End User, Open-source = Free (3, Insightful)

gmclapp (2834681) | about a year ago | (#42819267)

Open source is a nice idea... But if you put yourself in the shoes of the consumer, you're likely to download the source, compile it, and leave the donating to the other end users who you're sure are contributing... Obviously everyone thinks like this, so very few actually donate. As far as viability goes, as long as you don't intend to continue making a living on your work. Go for it.

Re:For End User, Open-source = Free (1)

eksith (2776419) | about a year ago | (#42819323)

This can be remedied somewhat by going with the value added support model. Professional support kept with a subscription can mitigate operating costs, but it would still be a bit of a stretch. Of course, by going purely on the donation route, big, bold, donation notices on the project homepage and anywhere else the code is linked for download will help. And users will want to clearly see how much is remaining to cover operational costs so that big thermometer thingy would fit in.

Re:For End User, Open-source = Free (2)

greg1104 (461138) | about a year ago | (#42819435)

If you put yourself in the shoes of the consumer, you don't end up downloading source. Consumers buy things that are packaged in a way that makes them easy to buy. Given the large chunks of the market are moving toward mobile and tablet consumption, that trend if accelerating if anything. Releasing source code has value to a narrow set of users who are not exactly famous for their spending.

For games, you can give away source code and sell the packaged product. Providing source does not require giving the binaries for free; that's the standard free speech vs. free beer distinction. If it's equally easy to pay for something or not pay for something, people will choose not to pay for it. Duh.

As for revenue from a development tool, that's a different market. That whole idea only works if you increase your market share so much by making it free that you make up for lost sales in some way. But the people who value source code to their development tools are a very competitive market. Your development tool has to be very good to do better than other free solutions. The assumption that releasing source by itself will drive people to your tool is a very poor one. The author here is extrapolating way too much from that narrow example.

Re:For End User, Open-source = Free (1)

allo (1728082) | about a year ago | (#42819935)

then somebody else will provide free binaries.

Re:For End User, Open-source = Free (1)

greg1104 (461138) | about a year ago | (#42820433)

People are willing to pay a bit for trustworthy binaries from a reputable, believed legitimate source like the known author of the program. I don't run binaries from random sources like torrent sites for a lot of reasons. If there was no legitimate market for things that it's possible to get for free, the ITunes store wouldn't make any money. As I said, the key is to make things easy for people to buy, and right now the market for things like phone apps says anything over a few dollars is too much to expect. Only businesses pay non-trivial recurring license fees, and even there only if they have to. If you provide legitimate binaries for free and rely on donations from them to survive, you shouldn't be surprised that most people will take the free ones and move along. That is then the easiest thing to do.

Re:For End User, Open-source = Free (2)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year ago | (#42820817)

Most people really don't care where they get their binaries. They just follow the rest of the herd. It doesn't matter if that herd is running MS-DOS or iPhones. People will take whatever is pushed at them. They will balk at ANY thing that costs more.

Most people are cheap lemmings.They will happily eat dirt because it's what's cheap and they may not even realize they are even eating dirt.

Re:For End User, Open-source = Free (1)

RevDisk (740008) | about a year ago | (#42833873)

Depends. I prefer reliable sources when I'm procuring software for businesses.

Re:For End User, Open-source = Free (1)

gmclapp (2834681) | about a year ago | (#42822015)

I agree that people are willing to pay for trustworthy, reputable sources. In this particular case, the original author is also offering the free alternative. So I don't see why anyone would pay unless they legitimately wanted to donate to the author for their work. In other cases, I would tend to agree with you.

Re:For End User, Open-source = Free (1)

allo (1728082) | about a year ago | (#42822255)

do you know xchat? the windows version is costly, because maintaining the installer was too much work to do it for free.
But everyone just uses the inofficial binaries (silverex, the last time i checked).

Re:For End User, Open-source = Free (1)

devent (1627873) | about a year ago | (#42823151)

For games, you can give away source code and sell the packaged product.

How I wish that would be the norm. For example with Sid Meyers Alpha Centauri. Such a great game. If only they would open up the source you could still play it for the next 50 years. It doesn't have to be the GPL, it could be a Non-Commercial license.

But the problem is a) they all too afraid that somebody will take the code and create a new game out of it. and b) they want you to buy the next new game instead of playing the good old ones.

Re:For End User, Open-source = Free (1)

Kjella (173770) | about a year ago | (#42823477)

For games, you can give away source code and sell the packaged product. Providing source does not require giving the binaries for free; that's the standard free speech vs. free beer distinction. If it's equally easy to pay for something or not pay for something, people will choose not to pay for it. Duh.

Except there are whole companies formed around taking all that source and wrapping it up into nice binary packages for you, we call them distributions, most of them are free and 99 times out of 100 people will prefer getting it from the default repositories. And if the companies haven't done it, you can be sure some resourceful individuals have and will put up their own PPA for free. And there's very little you can do about that if you're going to follow the GPL's rules about full corresponding source code and the build scripts. Of all the value-adds you can try to sell with your source code, compiling it to binaries is measured in fractions of a cent.

Re:For End User, Open-source = Free (1)

devent (1627873) | about a year ago | (#42823085)

Yeah right. The average user is going to download the source and compile it. Good one :p

HTCondor (1)

henryteighth (2488844) | about a year ago | (#42819271)

The HTCondor (formerly known as Condor) distributed computing project has always been free to use, but transitioned from a closed-source to open-source license a few years ago. Development of the software has been continuing unaffected, so far as I can tell. So: yes, it's definitely possible.

Re:HTCondor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42821875)

but was it closed-source for profit or did they give away the binaries?

Been there, done that (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42819287)

I was heavily involved in this on a github project last year. The concept is good, especially if you have enough of the source with clear copyright to put it under a GPL or change license gracefully. But the transition was really painful because all the weird, internal, badly done source control and essentially randomized selection of Perl components came home to roost, and were so embarrassing and so unstable in a more open environment that it was very difficult to get things re-integrated well. Basically, if you don't *tell* anyone you're running Apache 1.3 and storing SSH keys unencrypted on every system you touch, not that many of us will notice besides the crackers until it's far, far, far too late.

The cleanup was destabilizing and, frankly, cost me my job. But the project is far more secure and on track for safe deployment worldwide now, so I don't feel bad about that.

Re:Been there, done that (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about a year ago | (#42821385)

A lot of closed source software is extremely fragile, primarily because it was only ever designed to build in one place so you often end up with something that is an absolute nightmare to build

Lawyers will help you (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42819303)

distribute your code in gpl and sue all those who dont distribute derivative works. how did busybox developers get rich.?

Are they really? (1)

mitzampt (2002856) | about a year ago | (#42821113)

And besides the point: let's say you specify in your will that you want daisies on your grave and you leave a sum of money in order to do that, then afterwards your relatives get the money and use part of it to buy a marker to draw a daisy on your gravestone. Breaking a agreement, a license or a contract like that doesn't translate to revenue loss in most cases ("he doesn't mind, he's dead and the goose is in the bag now"), but it still feels like a d**k move.

Here's what really happened (5, Informative)

hweimer (709734) | about a year ago | (#42819331)

1. Last May [lunduke.com] , this guy announced he would GPL his stuff once he gets $4,000 in monthly donations.
2. Eight days later [lunduke.com] , he received a total of $4,000 in one-time donations and released his code under the GPL.
3. About a month later [lunduke.com] , he discovered that one-time donations and recurring donations are not the same thing.
4. Apparently until today, he is whining around how bad this all is and that open source is evil.

Take the money and run (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42820237)

When will people learn? Information has worth only to those who doesn't have it.

You have the leverage and money-making potential as long as you are in sole possession of information (e.g. a computer program, a literary work, a work of art, movie, news, etc.). Make your bargain for your whole profit while it is still the case, sell copies of your work exclusively to the highest bidder or deliver them only to your subscribers/kickstarter supporters, and then stay away from the market! You got your planned share of profit, then let your customers get their return on investment through reselling copies further on.
Make another work, rinse, repeat ...

Trying to corner someone into paying you for your past services and merits is pointless. You strike iron while it's hot.

Depends (2)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | about a year ago | (#42819343)

If the project has a strong following or better still a strong following amongst coders then yes it's feasible but not necessarily worth it. Do you anticipate the bulk of your revenue coming from funded development, Support or consulting then maybe if it's from licensing then unlikely.

HTH

Betteridge is wrong in this case! (3, Insightful)

OzPeter (195038) | about a year ago | (#42819387)

From TFS of all places: " In fact, I did just that about a year ago."

But then TFS then goes on to say that he almost went broke doing it and we find out that the real (but implied question) is actually "How can I get people to donate to my pet project?"

Re:Betteridge is wrong in this case! (1)

Bieeanda (961632) | about a year ago | (#42820345)

Oh, that's easy. Take it down for 'improvements', set up a Kickstarter, and promise an assortment of Tux-themed gewgaws bought through Dealextreme in exchange for pledging at a variety of levels.

Yes, but that's not what he's asking. (4, Insightful)

T.E.D. (34228) | about a year ago | (#42819421)

I've done it myself (with the original version of OpenToken [stephe-leake.org] ). It worked out great for everyone. The community got a great tool, and the company got accellerated development and code excercise out of a tool they were previously using in-house. Everyone was a winner.

However, that doesn't appear to be what he's asking. It appears that he was defining "success" as donation revenue being higher than proprietary software "toll" revinue, in particular for a game. That's a totally different question, and has almost nothing to do with Open Source licensing. Proprietary "freeware" games face exactly this issue, so the sensible thing to do is look at how they work. I'm not an expert on this model, but I understand they generally have a very low donation rate. So if you want to may it pay better, it would have to be something that will gain way more users as freeware than would have bought it as a traditional "toll booth" model game. Here's an SE question [stackoverflow.com] on this exact subject (warning, the answers aren't encouraging).

Most folks making money in OpenSource software that I'm aware of do it by selling services associated with the OpenSource software. For instance, that's how Red Hat makes money off of cywgin, and how AdaCore makes money off of the gnu Ada compiler (Gnat). I'm unaware of anybody doing that with OpenSource games. Possibilites in that space that come to mind are taking donations for feature additions (top grossing feature gets coded next!), or hosting ads on the game server.

Re:Yes, but that's not what he's asking. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42820995)

For games
Until Konami sued their pants off, Roxxor was making a good bit of money off of Stepmania in the form of their In The Groove consoles. The code differences between the specific commit of SM (called 3.95 by most) and ITG appear to be minimal. What sold THAT was the songs (and teh actual arcade cabinets). In the case of an OSS game, the levels and stroyline are what you can sell. If the engine and assets are opened, you get the "free" development, but can continue to sell your levelpacks etc.

Re:Yes, but that's not what he's asking. (1)

T.E.D. (34228) | about a year ago | (#42858673)

Well, that's another good possibility: Give the software away and make money off the hardware. That model wouldn't work for everyone, but folks selling Rock Band style games could easily have done it. I hate to think what my closet would start looking like if this caught on though. :-)

I've actually advocated with my employer (a commercial flight simulation developer) that they should adopt that model. Our "hardware" costs in the millions, and our software certianly doesn't do anything particularly useful (if it runs at all) without it. The real money in this business is in selling time on the trainers anyway.

TFA an ad for someone's Kickstarter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42819447)

In this case, don't RTFA.

Java (1)

sproketboy (608031) | about a year ago | (#42819573)

OpenJDK seems pretty successful to me.

Re:Java (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#42820861)

Only because its develoment costs are subsidized by Oracle's other revenue and before that Sun's. It makes no actual revenue on its own.

Java (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42819587)

Lots of Sun stuff did - OpenOffice and Java being two of the most well known I'd question if is worth it though.

Moving Java to GPL took about 5 years and used up an insane amount of time and resources at Sun. It is basically why so little of importance has happened to Java the language since 2004.

So what have we gained?

1. Free developers? But most of the development work is paid for and done by large commercial companies - Oracle and IBM are by far and away the largest contributors.
2. Wider developer pool? Sun found other ways of taking contributions in (via the JCP) without the need for a full open source transition.
3. Better Security? An often touted advantage of FOSS but the truth is Java has been hit by a plague of security problems since the move to open source; I'm not saying that this wouldn't have happened anyway, merely that being Open Source hasn't helped.
4. Wider adoption? Java is still the most/second most heavily used programming language on the planet (depends which metric you use) but it was before. It has been in steady decline for a while. There's no sign that going open source has stopped/reversed that.
5. Early feedback from developers? You can readily achieve that by shipping builds to developers - Apple, for example, uses that model very effectively in iOS and OS X.

Anything else?

Dual license (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42819951)

If you want to open source your code and keep a viable business model open selling one off licenses, you should look into a dual license. Also, there's nothing wrong keeping some of the assets closed (e.g. art, game music, etc.) and keep the source open. This allows the end user to benefit from the source code freedom, while protecting your commercial interests.

Friends don't let friends use GPL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42820063)

MIT license is superior for all parties concerned.

Re:Friends don't let friends use GPL (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#42825959)

GPL allows the creator to retain control over the copies of the work that get made by still requiring permission to copy the work, much as a copyright in a book might be, for instance. The GPL simply outlines what terms a person must agree to so that they can obtain permission to copy the work (which is simply to agree to its terms). If you don't like the requirement that future derived works have their source code available, the GPL is not for you... but that's a far cry from saying that there aren't people out there who find that approach quite appealing, myself included.

Genious (1)

dcollins117 (1267462) | about a year ago | (#42820087)

I tried to take a software development tool (along with some video games) that I had developed (and was earning a good living from) and migrate them to the GPL with continued development funded via donations. The results were...disastrous.

Well what did you think was going to happen? It doesn't take much business acumen to foresee your income going down when you stop selling a product and give it away for free. Did you think donations would exceed your sales? I don't get it.

Going Free Software or Open Source is easy. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#42820165)

It's easy to take a closed product and go open source with it but there are some caveats, especially for games.

If it's a game, with single player, then fine, no real problem. If it's predominantly multiplayer that drives user-base / community then you don't want to release it as open source. Security via obscurity blah blah blah, but the fact it once you open up a multiplayer game it gets full of cheaters MUCH faster than the closed version. Unfortunately, it only takes a few bad apples to spoil the whole damn community. I've seen opened games go back closed, even when no money is involved, simply because of all the damn cheaters. For these types of games you want the current version to be closed source, pending a release, and the older released version to have significantly different enough modifications (esp. networking) so that the released version doesn't give too much insight to cheaters. You might have to go longer between releases, but at least it's getting opened. If it's a (dying) multiplayer game with no more user base, then it's fine to GPL it because it'll be mostly just friends playing with each other and they police themselves. Adding a user registration system helps with cheating somewhat, but email addresses are free. The trick is to create positive incentives for folks not to ditch their account, not negatively reinforce punishment. I.e., instead of wielding the ban hammer, give kudos/karma/in-game-cred and have there be perks, like voting for the next level takes your karma into effect; I digress...

The think people have to realize is that you need to work to make money. You can't just work once and then repeatedly sell the configuration of bits you just made. That closed model is dumb, it relies on artificial scarcity, it's economically untenable; What's scarce isn't the bits it's your ability to configure the bits that's scarce, that's what you sell, and that's how you make money with open source. Lots of people can't wrap their head around the fact that they need to be adding real (visual) benefit to get paid when they go open source because FLOSS users don't put up with moronic artificial scarcity models. Good will or no, donations don't cut it unless your project has a huge install-base. You have to keep working otherwise.

This means, let's say you create an awesome engine and level design tool set. Cool. Now, you can open source it, then do Kickstarters or other donations for adding a new game editor feature, or building an expansion pack of levels and kick ass assets that modders can use in their own maps (new textures, a new power or gun, mechanic, etc). Or, bring the game to a new platform. See? WORK for Money that you know you'll get. Don't work for free, that's dumb.

If a car mechanic fixed your car without asking, because they noticed it was broken, then that's great, but if they complain about people not paying them for the service then they're dumb. Don't work for free. Mechanics (and all other laborers) will give you a bid for their time -- An agreed upon price for manhours or to complete a job. Once a fair price is agreed upon, then the work is done, and you get paid ONCE for that work. You don't get recurring payments even if your work ends up benefiting lots of people -- say you fixed a bus, you don't get money for all the folks that thereafter ride in it.

I don't know why it's so damned hard for Closed Software devs to figure out how all other labor markets work. This isn't hard to understand. Much bigger software with more users can get away with more good will funding, but smaller shops have less users, so they need to not work for free then hope to get paid. They need to decide to do some work for an agreed upon price.

On the contrary: If you're just selling copies, and now you want to give them away for free and you're not improving anything, then I'm sorry, screw you, you don't get paid for not doing any damn work. Protip: That's why bands make most of their money via performing.

Partial Open Sourcing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42820173)

Has anybody come up with a formalized strategy of "partial" open sourcing? For example, a core engine is released under a BSD model, convenience library APIs provided under a LGPL model (dual licensed to a closed license), core standalone utility applications released under GPL (dual licensed), and all other parts of the "solution" (such as the main user interface parts) released under a closed license.

The idea is to get the "ideas" of your application out for general contribution and access but still make a living off your particular implementation.

I have seen it go the other way (1, Insightful)

tlambert (566799) | about a year ago | (#42820307)

I have seen it go the other way, and it's a much easier transition. Examples include Android and OS X, where the code is only Open Sourced after release, since the license does not require development to occur in the open, it only requires the code be handed over on release, and then only if it's requested, in most cases. Other examples include WINE, which begat Crossover Office, which has proprietary chunks, and MySQL, which has proprietary back ends available, if you want actual transactions instead of pretend ones.

If you GPL the entire product, someone will start nightly builds outside your organization; this happens today with both Android and ChromeOS, and there's no way you can control this to the point of preventing it, at least without going to a secureboot option, and keeping the binary signing keeys internal to your organization.

Given the above, there is almost not a chance in hell of you getting as much income from an Open Source model as you will get from a closed source model, unless your closed source version isn't really in demand anyway, or unless you intentionally leave features out of the Open Source version, as has happened with both WINE and MySQL.

The best you can hope for is to Open Source the tactical portions of your product in a way that's (A) useful enough to third parties that they are willing to commit some development resources to maintaining the code, and (B) that it's still useless enough that you don't end up with some zealot coming up with a fully Open Source version of the product you are attempting to sell based on its strategic values (something BitKeeper failed to do successfully).

There have been several posts over the past couple of days complaining about not being able to use derivative works of proprietary (copyrighted) data files for things like Windows registry/crapware cleaners, etc., all of which are complaining about the inability to lock down the strategic value (or, contrarily, complaining about companies attempting to lock down their strategic value).

In general, the Open Source model is not a good match for vertical markets. E.g. if I owned a moving company, there'd be no way I'd want a competing moving company getting out from under their moving software license fees (which are onerous) because of software that I funded development on in order to get myself out from under those same fees -- the entire application has strategic competitive value for my company.

The Open Source model is also not a good model for projects where the strategic value is in the glue code between Open Source modules -- as stated previously, this allows someone to compete by stringing the parts together using their own business logic, at a very low cost, and my margins are completely dependent on barriers to entry for third parties. To go back to the moving company example, with heavy fluctuations in consumables, like truck fuel, my company is already at a heavy disadvantage compared to large companies, since it's a cash flow business for smaller companies, and the larger companies can make capitol investments in long term fuel pricing contracts, which can get them steep discounts.

I have also seen the "Give away the software, well service/support" model blow up on people; perhaps the most spectacular example of that would be Cygnus Software, which has become a shell housing something totally different than compiler development.

My general sense of things is that if you are a programmer, there are companies who will pay you to work on Open Source; Google is a good example, since they have more money than God from advertising revenue, and are willing to spend it on buying street cred/prestiege by hiring prominent Open Source people. If you want to found a company on it, you are going to be hard put to make it pay off.

Open source works depending on the deployment (1)

LoRdTAW (99712) | about a year ago | (#42820857)

I get the feeling that people open source closed projects to get the community to do free work while they continue to receive revenue through donations. If that is the case then your doing it wrong. Also, in the article linked in the summary, the author does not say if he also GPL'd the content along with his game code. The content is where the money is.

If I had a closed project that was making me money I would not open it until it was no longer a profitable project. At that point I should a) have a new closed project available that is a new source of income or b) finding another source of profit altogether. If the stagnant project is no longer making me a significant amount of money then why keep it closed and let it die? If there was still a use for it then I would open it up and let the OS community have it for free. If they make it better and it once again becomes useful then that is awesome, they did something that I couldn't or didn't have the time to.

Another example is if I made a game and the game engine or framework was decent enough to give to the community then by all means, I would open source the game code. BUT I would keep the copyright on the content and continue to sell the game. Its like what id does for their previous generation tech. Everything from Wolfenstein to Doom 3 is open source. Why? Because the game engine is no longer profitable to license and the game itself is old and no longer selling. So their technology does not die and gets to live on. But of course the game content itself is not free. The levels, textures, sound, music and models are all under copyright and are not free. You don't get the content when you download the game engine. You also might not get event scripts, AI scripts or other bits that give them a technical edge. In gaming, the content is what makes your game an actual game. Content probably costs more time and money to develop than the actual game code. You don't give that away unless you really want to.

If your software is a tool then you either keep it closed and continue to profit from it or you face the fact that once you open it, it may no longer be a source of profit. Single use tools cant be modified into something else unless there is an API or framework beneath it that could be used for other tools. That can be opened up without impacting your existing tools profitability.

There are plenty of dual-licensed open source projects where the community gets a version that is only community supported and may lack certain features or content. Then if someone wants the full features or build a commercial product using the software, it must be commercially licensed.

article lacks a lot of important information (1)

devent (1627873) | about a year ago | (#42820961)

That article lacks a lot of important information and also the very first sentence don't make any sense at all.

Commercial software going Open Source doesn't happen very often.

Commercial Software and Open Source Software are not orthogonal concepts. There are many Open Source Software that are commercial. For example RedHat Linux, MySQL.

The first question is what is "success"?
You can take any software and re-license it under the GPL or BSD (if you have the copyrights). But what is your goal? What are you defining as "success"?
Do you want more users, more money, more developers?

I guess the author wants more money. So if you are taking your product and offer it now for free, how are you suppose to make more money? The GPL do not forbid you from taking money for your product!

Going open source will bring you more developers, but only for some kind of projects. For example, a game engine will not bring you many new developers, just because game engines are normally very complex. A finished game is the same, games are complex and not many want to develop your game.

You can have more users with an Open Source license just by offering it as package for the Linux distributions. Maybe your software will get into the main repository and will be shipped with every copy of Ubuntu, Debian or some else.

You see, it's a very complex. You can't just go Open Source and except to get a shitload of money. Open Source is in the first to share information, not making money. Of course by sharing information you can get money.

The results were...disastrous. Within a very short period of time of going Open Source, the total funding for the projects fell to less than 20% of what was being brought in via sales when the software was Closed Source, which almost completely impeded the ability to fund continued development.

What a surprise. He offered his product for free and wondered why nobody is paying for it. If my baker tomorrow will offer their bread for free, why should I pay for it? Why didn't he made his stuff Open Source and sold it? Or sold a premium version that is Open Source for a higher price?

The Humble Indie Game Package was a success because there is a big market for DRM free and portable games. All gamers are just took in the ass from big publishers with rootkits, always-on, Windows-only, DRM-crap games. And then came Humble Indie Game Package. My only source of games is right now the Humbe Indie Packages and http://www.gog.com/ [gog.com]

Blender 3D (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42822413)

Blender3D may have done this more successfully than others. It started as closed source, shareware app, but was opensourced in 2002 after the company went bankrupt and raised 100000 euros worth of donation. They continue to be successful, making much of their revenue from training and projects using their materials.

If Microsoft made their Windows Phone 8 GPL? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42823245)

If Microsoft made their Windows Phone 8 GPL then Nokia and other phones on this platform would flourish overnight rather than struggle to find developers who don't want to touch a both unpopular market trailing and closed platform.

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