A blog for the enterprise open source community
When commercial open source goes badMatthew Aslett, March 21, 2011 @ 12:12 pm ET
One of the primary proof-points of the success of open source has been its adoption by previously proprietary software vendors.
In February 2007 The 451 Group’s CAOS practice released its third report, Going Open, which examined the increasing adoption of open source licensing by traditionally-licensed software companies and captured the industry best-practices to ensure a successful transition from closed to open.
Four years is a long time in the software industry and in a few months we will publish a follow-up to Going Open, updating our analysis of the trends and best-practices and revisiting the vendors profiled in the report to see how they have fared following the transition to open source licensing.
As well as examining open source successes it is also important to consider those examples where open source licensing has not delivered the expected results, and the new report will also examine vendors that have “Gone Closed” and abandoned open source licensing efforts.
There are a few examples we are already aware of through our ongoing research. One analytic database vendor recently changed the license of its Community Edition project, abandoning the GNU GPL in favour of a license that would not meet the Open Source Definition (I won’t name them now since I haven’t given them the opportunity to explain themselves).
Another example involves a company set up by some prominent former employees of one of the big names in open source software. The first version was released using an open source license but was never updated, as the company focused all its attention on the closed source version instead.
Meanwhile one of the prominent “open source” systems management vendors appears to have removed all mention of its Community Edition software from its website, while the Community Edition itself has not been updated for 15 months. While the project is not officially “dead” it is, to say the least, “pining for the fjords” and the company in question could be said to be open source in name only.
We are sure there are plenty of other examples of companies that have launched an open source project or “Community Edition” only to later decide that maintaining the project was not in its best commercial interests. The question is, why did these companies fail to benefit from open source licensing, and what can commercial open source companies lean from their experiences.
If you have any examples of dead or “resting” open source projects, please let us know and we will investigate.
Please note, however, that in this instance we are not interested in companies that have simply gone “open core” or adopted copyright contribution agreements. As fascinating as those subjects are (and may well be contributing factors in the demise of a project) we are interested for this report primarily in the discontinued use of an open source license.
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