Why open source does not work (sometimes)

Two friends and Me are currently starting a company. I can't say too much about the idea but it will be a traffic management online system. So I am off coding lots of nights. So the question was if we should open source the code. I normally publish everything I do under the BSD or GPLv3 license. I wouldn't say I am a Open Source activist but I try o keep my computer blob free. So now I am trying to sell a product. How would this work if it would be Open Source. Let's have a look at a successful open Source company that is not in the service business. So a company where 20 people sit in a room and code and someone gives them money for something they can have for free. Honestly I can not think of one company that sells a product and is open source. If you have a look at Google. They would never open source theire algorithm, if they would Microsoft would come along and build exactly the same search engine and give you 1 Cent if you search with it. Making money and open sourcing your code seam to be impossible if you are selling a product. It is brilliant if you are a service provider and you get your money from selling manuals or such, but if you are a little start up like us the code base is the only asset you have. Giving this away for free would ruin the whole project. So I feel quite sad to say that the next big thing I am coding will be closed source. Not because I believe in the closed source idea but because I will have to maybe live of this. And I can't see anyone giving us money for something that they could have for free.

While thinking about this I asked my self why is facebook, youtube and gmail the whole web 2 not Open Source. They all build on free software (mainly Linux I suppose) but still I would love to see the source code of gmail and find out why its sooooo slow. (See next post) The Google idea is that gmail will pay through adverts. But if there would be an open source version I would host it at home and not put up with that slow advert full version. So even a service has to be closed source sometimes to close in there customers to a product.


Anonymous said...

Looks like we will shortly find out if this does work.. http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/05/26/facebook-to-open-source-facebook-platform/

Anonymous said...

I explained a profitable GPLv3-only business model at my LGM3 speech this year - http://www.river-valley.tv/conferences/lgm2008/#0103-Dave_Crossland :-)

The GNU Gnash project is GPLv3 only and half a dozen people are paid to work full time on it, for example - and there are several large GNU projects like this.

- Dave