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Life after death or living dead? Open source is no guaranteeMatthew Aslett, December 16, 2009 @ 6:55 am ET
There was much rejoicing recently as Google announced a change of heart and decided to release the source code to EtherPad, which it had previously acquired along with AppJet and had planned to shut down.
Krishnan Subramanian at Cloud Ave was certainly happy as it supported his theory that SaaS vendors should offer their software under an open source license or at least open source their app before they shut down.
I’m not going to argue with Krishnan’s first point – in fact I agree that there is a lot of value in SaaS vendors reducing risk and encouraging adoption by making an open source version of their software available. However I am less convinced by the latter argument. There is a fine line between life after death and the living dead and the release of code under an open source license is no guarantee of re-birth.
In covering the new Krishnan noted a number of other projects that have also survived their corporate owner, such as Zoto, Mindquarry, and Jaiku. I previously noted, however, that Mindquarry is a prime example of a project that has failed to flourish.
When Mindquarry, shut down the firm’s founders were all hired by Day Software, and stated that as long as there was an active community, they intended to continue their commitment to the software. SourceForge statistics for the project indicate that it has been inactive since the day it was registered.
Similarly, the Ringside Social Application Server software may have outlived its corporate sponsor, which closed its doors in October 2008, but it has not been updated since July 2008, according to SourceForge statistics.
Of the other examples, the Zoto project is similarly moribund, while I would also mention that the source code project for the Tr.im URL shortening project has been inactive since mid-October having been released amid much fanfare a few months earlier.
Jaiku, the micro-blogging platform, seems to be fairing much better and has a large group of active owners and committers.
This raises an obvious point, but one that is worth making: open source projects cannot survive without committed developers. We previously noted that openQRM continues to be an active project despite the closure of Qlusters in July 2008 and that the main difference between openQRM appeared to be a committed project leader and an active community of developers.
Kris Buytaert reported yesterday that not only is the openQRM project thriving but Matt Rechenburg, the openQRM team lead, has founded openQRM Enterprise GmbH, together with some core members of the openQRM Team to provide world-wide professional services and long-term support for openQRM.
Which goes to show that with open source there is life after death – if there is a committed group of developers prepared to put in the effort to keep the project alive. For many open source projects that’s a pretty big “if”.
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