The rejuvenation of community-controlled open source

Jay recently speculated, and I agreed, that we may be starting to see a return to support and other services, rather than commercial code and licensing, as the preferred mode to monetize open source.

The shift is related to, although not dependent upon, a predicted move away from vendor-dominated open source projects towards vendor-dominated open source communities.

I wondered if we might have some data at hand that proves or disproves the theory that the balance has shifted back towards open source communities rather than vendor-controlled projects and turned to our database of investments in open source-related vendors.

The results are pretty interesting. Below is a chart showing the proportion of series A investment deals in each year for open source-related vendors depending on whether the underlying open source development project is controlled by a community or a vendor.

What the chart indicates is that while vendor-controlled projects remain the preferred approach for VC-backed open source-related vendors, the vendor-controlled approach has declined in the past two years.

Meanwhile following the early dominance of community-controlled projects (a result of the early Linux start-ups), the popularity of community-controlled projects has been rejuvenated in the last couple of years.

Of course, those communities are now dominated by vendors, but they are built on a foundation of collaboration and (there’s no other word for it) community – that is often lacking in many vendor-dominated projects.

Of course, this chart only includes VC-backed open source related vendors so two major constituents of the commercial open source ecosystem are missing: previously proprietary vendors using and contributing open source code, and bootstrapped start-ups.

I’ll return to this subject to take a look at those projects in another post.

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11 comments ↓

#1 Matt Asay on 10.15.09 at 5:36 am

“Community controlled” in what way? IBM, Microsoft, Day, etc. fund many of the most important Apache projects. Linux is written by Red Hat, IBM, Intel, etc. How is this “community” but SugarCRM, Talend, etc. are vendor-controlled? Sounds like squeaky semantics, to me.

#2 Matthew Aslett on 10.15.09 at 6:17 am

Vendor-dominated communities are still communities, unlike many vendor-controlled projects.

#3 Matt Asay on 10.15.09 at 5:37 am

I see that you differentiate between vendor-dominated development communities and vendor-controlled projects. Are you sure there’s really that much of a difference?

#4 Matthew Aslett on 10.15.09 at 6:16 am

The difference may be small, but I think it is significant in terms of the business strategies and vendor-user relationships. I think the concern over the future of MySQL has highlighted that there is a very real difference between community-controlled and vendor-controlled open source.

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