Open-source software is widely used both as independent applications and as components in non-open-source applications. Many independent software vendors (ISVs), value-added resellers (VARs), and hardware vendors (OEMs or ODMs) use open-source frameworks, modules, and libraries inside their proprietary, for-profit products and services. From a customer's perspective, the ability to use open technology under standard commercial terms and support is valuable. They are willing to pay for the legal protection (e.g., indemnification from copyright or patent infringement), "commercial-grade QA", and professional support/training/consulting that are typical of commercial software, while also receiving the benefits of fine-grained control and lack of lock-in that comes with open-source.
Much unlike proprietary off-the-shelf software that come with restrictive licenses, open-source software is distributed freely, through the web and in physical media. Because creators cannot require each user to pay a license fee to fund development this way, a number of alternative development funding models have emerged.
An example of those funding models is when bespoke software is developed as a consulting project for one or more customers who request it. These customers pay developers to have this software developed according to their own needs and they could also closely direct the developers' work. If both parties agree, the resulting software could then be publicly released with an open-source license in order to allow subsequent adoption by other parties. That agreement could reduce the costs paid by the clients while the original developers (or independent consultants) can then charge for training, installation, technical support, or further customization if and when more interested customers would choose to use it after the initial release.
Another approach to funding is to provide the software freely, but sell licenses to proprietary add-ons such as data libraries. For instance, an open-source CAD program may require parts libraries which are sold on a subscription or flat-fee basis. Open-source software can also promote the sale of specialized hardware that it interoperates with, some example cases being the Asterisk telephony software developed by PC-telephony hardware manufacturer Digium and the Robot Operating System (ROS) robotics platform by Willow Garage and Stanford AI Labs. Many open source software projects have begun as research projects within universities, as personal projects of students or professors, or as tools to aid scientific research. The influence of universities and research institutions on open-source shows in the number of projects named after their host institutions, such as BSD Unix, CMU Common Lisp, or the NCSA HTTPd which evolved into Apache.
Companies may employ developers to work on open-source projects that are useful to the company's infrastructure: in this case, it is developed not as a product to be sold but as a sort of shared public utility. A local bug-fix or solution to a software problem, written by a developer either at a company's request or to make his/her own job easier, can be released as an open-source contribution without costing the company anything. A larger project such as the Linux kernel may have contributors from dozens of companies which use and depend upon it, as well as hobbyist and research developers.
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Open-source software can be sold and used in general commercially. Also, commercial open-source applications have been a part of the software industry for some time. While commercialization or funding of open-source software projects is possible, it is considered challenging.
Since several open-source licenses stipulate that authors of derivative works must distribute them under an open-source (copyleft) license, ISVs and VARs have to develop new legal and technical mechanisms to foster their commercial goals, as many traditional mechanisms are not directly applicable anymore.
Traditional business wisdom suggests that a company's methods, assets, and intellectual properties should remain concealed from market competitors (trade secret) as long as possible to maximize the profitable commercialization time of a new product. Open-source software development minimizes the effectiveness of this tactic; development of the product is usually performed in view of the public, allowing competing projects or clones to incorporate new features or improvements as soon as the public code repository is updated, as permitted by most open-source licenses. Also in the computer hardware domain, a hardware producer who provides free and open software drivers reveals the knowledge about hardware implementation details to competitors, who might use this knowledge to catch up.
Therefore, there is considerable debate about whether vendors can make a sustainable business from an open-source strategy. In terms of a traditional software company, this is probably the wrong question to ask. Looking at the landscape of open source applications, many of the larger ones are sponsored (and largely written) by system companies such as IBM who may not have an objective of software license revenues. Other software companies, such as Oracle and Google, have sponsored or delivered significant open-source code bases. These firms' motivation tends to be more strategic, in the sense that they are trying to change the rules of a marketplace and reduce the influence of vendors such as Microsoft. Smaller vendors doing open-source work may be less concerned with immediate revenue growth than developing a large and loyal community, which may be the basis of a corporate valuation at merger time.
A variety of open-source compatible business approaches have gained prominence in recent years[according to whom?]; notable examples include dual licensing, software as a service, not charging for the software but for services, freemium, donation-based funding, and crowdfunding.
There are several different types of business models for making profit using open-source software (OSS) or funding the creation. Below are existing and legal commercial business approaches in context of open-source software and open-source licenses. The acceptance of these approaches varies; some of these approaches are recommended (like selling services), others are accepted, while still others are considered controversial or even unethical by the open-source community. The underlying objective of these business models is to harness the size and international scope of the open-source community (typically more than an order of magnitude larger than what would be achieved with closed-source models) for a sustainable commercial venture. The vast majority of commercial open-source companies experience a conversion ratio (as measured by the percentage of downloaders who buy something) well below 1%, so low-cost and highly-scalable marketing and sales functions are key to these firms' profitability.
Dual licensing offers the software under an open-source license but also under separate proprietary license terms. The proprietary version can be sold to finance the continued development of the free open-source version. Customers can be attracted to a no-cost and open-source edition, then be part of an up-sell to a commercial enterprise edition. Further, customers will learn of open-source software in a company's portfolio and offerings but generate business in other proprietary products and solutions, including commercial technical support contracts and services. A popular example is Oracle's MySQL database which is dual-licensed under a commercial proprietary license as also under the GPLv2. Another example is the Sleepycat License. Flask developer Armin Ronacher stated that the AGPLv3 was a "terrible success" as "vehicle for dual commercial licensing" and noted that MongoDB, RethinkDB, OpenERP, SugarCRM as well as WURFL utilizing the license for this purpose.
Another possibility is offering open-source software in source code form only, while providing executable binaries to paying customers only, offering the commercial service of compiling and packaging of the software. Also, providing goods like physical installation media (e.g., DVDs) can be a commercial service.
Some open-source organizations such as the Mozilla Foundation and the Wikimedia Foundation sell branded merchandise articles like t-shirts and coffee mugs. This can be also seen as an additional service provided to the user community.
Another financing approach is innovated by Moodle, an open source learning management system and community platform. The business model revolves around a network of commercial partners who are certificated and therefore authorised to use the Moodle name and logo, and in turn provide a proportion of revenue to the Moodle Trust, which funds core development.
Selling subscriptions for online accounts and server access to customers is a way of making profit based on open-source software. Also, combining desktop software with a service, called software plus services. Providing cloud computing services or software as a service (SaaS) without the release of the open-source software itself, neither in binary nor in source form, conforms with most open-source licenses (with exception of the AGPL).
Because of its lack of software freedoms, Richard Stallman calls SaaS "inherently bad" while acknowledging its legality. The FSF called the server-side use-case without release of the source-code the "ASP loophole in the GPLv2" and encourage therefore the use of the Affero General Public License which plugged this hole in 2002. In 2007 the FSF contemplated including the special provision of AGPLv1 into GPLv3 but ultimately decided to keep the licenses separate.
Other financial situations include partnerships with other companies. Governments, universities, companies, and non-governmental organizations may develop internally or hire a contractor for custom in-house modifications, then release that code under an open-source license. Some organizations support the development of open-source software by grants or stipends, like Google's Summer of Code initiative founded in 2005.
Also, there were experiments by Independent developers to fund development of open-source software donation-driven directly by the users, e.g., with the Illumination Software Creator in 2012. SourceForge, for example, allows users to donate money to the projects it hosts that opt to accept donations. Internet micro-payments systems like PayPal, flattr, and Bitcoin help this approach.
Larger donation campaigns also exist. In 2004 the Mozilla Foundation carried out a fundraising campaign to support the launch of the Firefox 1.0 web browser. It placed a two-page ad in the December 16 edition of the New York Times listing the names of the thousands who had donated.
The users of a particular software artifact may come together and pool money into an open-source bounty for the implementation of a desired feature or functionality. Offering bounties as funding has existed for some time. For instance, Bountysource is a web platform which has offered this funding model for open source software since 2003.
Another bounty source is companies or foundations that set up bounty programs for implemented features or bugfixes in open-source software relevant to them. For instance, Mozilla has been paying and funding freelance open-source programmers for security bug hunting and fixing since 2004.
A newer funding opportunity for open-source software projects is crowdfunding, which shares similarities with the pre-order or Praenumeration business model, as well as the reverse bounty model, typically organized over web platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or Bountysource (see also comparison of crowd funding services). One example is the successfully funded Indiegogo campaign in 2013 by Australian programmer Timothy Arceri, who offered to implement an OpenGL 4.3 extension for the Mesa library in two weeks for $2,500. Arceri delivered the OpenGL extension code which was promptly merged upstream, and he later continued his efforts on Mesa with successive crowdfunding campaigns. Later, he found work as an employee in this domain with Collabora and in 2017 with Valve Corporation. Another example is the June 2013 crowdfunding on Kickstarter of the open source video game Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead which raised the payment of a full-time developer for 3.5 months. Patreon funding has also become an effective option, as the service gives the option to pay out each month to creators, many of whom intend to develop free and open source software.
In order to commercialize FOSS (free and open-source software), many companies (including Google, Mozilla, and Canonical) have moved towards an economic model of advertising-supported software. For instance, the open-source application AdBlock Plus gets paid by Google for letting whitelisted Acceptable Ads bypassing the browser ad remover. As another example is SourceForge, an open-source project service provider, has the revenue model of advertising banner sales on their website. In 2006, SourceForge reported quarterly takings of $6.5 million and $23 million in 2009.
Some companies sell proprietary but optional extensions, modules, plugins or add-ons to an open-source software product. This can be a "license conform" approach with many open-source licenses if done technically sufficiently carefully. For instance, mixing proprietary code and open-source licensed code in statically linked libraries or compiling all source code together in a software product might violate open-source licenses, while keeping them separated by interfaces and dynamic-link libraries might often adhere to license conform.
This approach is a variant of the freemium business model. The proprietary software may be intended to let customers get more value out of their data, infrastructure, or platform, e.g., operate their infrastructure/platform more effectively and efficiently, manage it better, or secure it better. Examples include the IBM proprietary Linux software, where IBM contributes to the Linux open-source ecosystem, but it builds and delivers (to IBM’s paying customers) database software, middleware, and other software that runs on top of the open-source core. Other examples of proprietary products built on open-source software include Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Cloudera's Apache Hadoop-based software. Some companies appear to re-invest a portion of their financial profits from the sale of proprietary software back into the open source infrastructure.
A variant of the approach above is the keeping of required data content (for instance a video game's audio, graphic, and other art assets) of a software product proprietary while making the software's source code open-source. While this approach is completely legitimate and compatible with most open-source licenses, customers have to buy the content to have a complete and working software product. Restrictive licenses can then be applied on the content, which prevents the redistribution or re-selling of the complete software product. Examples for open-source developed software are Kot-in-Action Creative Artel video game Steel Storm, engine GPLv2 licensed while the artwork is CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0 licensed, and Frogatto & Friends with an own developed open-source engine and commercialization via the copyrighted game assets for iPhone, BlackBerry and MacOS.
Other examples are Arx Fatalis (by Arkane Studios) and Catacomb 3-D (by Flat Rock Software) with source code opened to the public delayed after release, while copyrighted assets and binaries are still sold on gog.com as digital distribution.
Doing so conforms with the FSF and Richard Stallman, who stated that for art or entertainment the software freedoms are not required or important.
The similar product bundling of an open-source software product with hardware which prevents users from running modified versions of the software is called tivoization and is legal with most open-source licenses except GPLv3, which explicitly prohibits this use-case.
If a software product uses only own software and open-source software under a permissive free software licence, a company can re-license the resulting software product under a proprietary license and sell the product without the source code or software freedoms. For instance, Apple Inc. is an avid user of this approach by using source code and software from open-source projects. For example, the BSD Unix operating system kernel (under the BSD license) was used in Apple's Mac PCs that were sold as proprietary products.
An approach to allow commercialization under some open-source licenses while still protecting crucial business secrets, intellectual property and technical know-how is obfuscation of source code. This approach was used in several cases, for instance by Nvidia in their open-source graphic card device drivers. This practice is used to get the open-source-friendly propaganda without bearing the inconveniences. There has been debate in the free-software/open-source community on whether it is illegal to skirt copyleft software licenses by releasing source code in obfuscated form, such as in cases in which the author is less willing to make the source code available. The general consensus was that while unethical, it was not considered a violation.
The Free Software Foundation, on the other hand, is clearly against this practice. The GNU General Public License since version 2 has defined "source code" as "the preferred form of the work for making modifications to it." This is intended to prevent the release of obfuscated source code.
Some companies provide the latest version available only to paying customers. A vendor forks a non-copyleft software project then adds closed-source additions to it and sells the resulting software. After a fixed time period the patches are released back upstream under the same license as the rest of the codebase. This business model is called version lagging or time delaying.
For instance, the MariaDB Corporation created for business compatible "delayed open-sourcing" the source-available Business source license (BSL) which automatically relicenses after three years to the FOSS GPL. This approach garantuees for licensees that they have source code access (e.g. for code audits), are not locked into a closed platform, or suffer from planned obsolescence, while for the software developer a time-limited exclusive commercialization is possible.
However, this approach works only with own software or permissive licensed code parts, as there is no copyleft FOSS license available which allows the time delayed opening of the source code after distributing or selling of a software product.
An extreme variant of "delayed open-sourcing" is a business practice popularized by id Software and 3D Realms, which released several software products under a free software license after a long proprietary commercialization time period and the return of investment was achieved. The motivation of companies following this practice of releasing the source code when a software reaches the commercial end-of-life, is to prevent that their software becomes unsupported Abandonware or even get lost due to digital obsolescence. This gives the user communities the chance to continue development and support of the software product themselves as an open-source software project. Many examples from the video game domain are in the list of commercial video games with later released source code.
Popular non-game software examples are the Netscape Communicator which was open-sourced in 1998 and Sun Microsystems's office suite, StarOffice, which was released in October 2000 at its commercial end of life. Both releases formed the basis of important open-source projects, namely Mozilla Firefox and OpenOffice.org/LibreOffice. However, Firefox eventually gained a more-than-self-sustaining revenue model, so Firefox was not an example of a commercial end-of-life release.
According to Yochai Benkler, the Berkman Professor for Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard Law School, free software is the most visible part of a new economy of commons-based peer production of information, knowledge, and culture. As examples, he cites a variety of FOSS projects, including both free software and open source.
This new economy is already under development. In order to commercialize FOSS, many companies, Google being the most successful, are moving towards an economic model of advertising-supported software. In such a model, the only way to increase revenue is to make the advertising more valuable. Facebook has recently come under fire for using novel user tracking methods to accomplish this.
Much of the Internet runs on open-source software tools and utilities such as Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP, known as the LAMP stack for web servers. Using open source appeals to software developers for three main reasons: low or no cost, access to source code they can tailor themselves, and a shared community that ensures a generally robust code base, with quick fixes for new issues.
Despite doing much business in proprietary software, some companies like Oracle Corporation and IBM participated in developing free and open-source software to deter from monopolies and take a portion of market share for themselves. See Commercial open-source applications for the list of current commercial open-source offerings. Netscape's actions were an example of this, and thus Mozilla Firefox has become more popular, getting market share from Internet Explorer.
DiBona said that the SOC was designed to benefit everyone involved in it. Students had the chance to work on real projects, rather than academic ones, and to get paid while gaining experience and making contacts. FOSS projects benefited from getting new code and having the chance to recruit new developers.
I'm not going to claim that I got a way to make it easier to raise money to pay people who write free software. We all know, that to some extent there are ways to do that, but we all know that they are limited, they are not as broad as we would like.
Essentially there are only three ways to protect computer software under the law: patent it, register a copyright for it, or keep it as a trade secret.
Oracle makes its MySQL database server and MySQL Client Libraries available under both the GPL and a commercial license. As a result, developers who use or distribute open source applications under the GPL can use the GPL-licensed MySQL software, and OEMs, ISVs and VARs that do not want to combine or distribute the MySQL software with their own commercial software under a GPL license can purchase a commercial license.
The AGPLv3 was a terrible success, especially among the startup community that found the perfect base license to make dual licensing with a commercial license feasible. MongoDB, RethinkDB, OpenERP, SugarCRM as well as WURFL all now utilize the AGPLv3 as a vehicle for dual commercial licensing. The AGPLv3 makes that generally easy to accomplish as the original copyright author has the rights to make a commercial license possible but nobody who receives the sourcecode itself through the APLv3 inherits that right. I am not sure if that was the intended use of the license, but that's at least what it's definitely being used for now.
Open source software is free to download, modify and use, but that doesn't mean it's not worth paying for sometimes. If you're using open source software in a commercial, enterprise capacity, here are six reasons why you should pay for free software.
Other companies have made big money selling Linux — Intel, IBM, Dell, and others have used it as a way to sell hardware and support services — but Red Hat has managed the tricky business of building a software platform that big businesses will pay for.
He (...) claims software as a service (SaaS) is inherently bad because your information goes through a server beyond your control and that server can add additional software when it likes.
Web-based programs like Google's Gmail will force people to buy into locked, proprietary systems that will cost more and more over time, according to the free software campaigner
We recommend that people consider using the GNU AGPL for any software which will commonly be run over a network.
Lunduke is pledging to open-source and distribute his portfolio of hitherto paid software – which includes the Linux distro management simulator Linux Tycoon - for free, under the GPL, if he can reach a donation-driven funding goal of $4000/m. Reaching this goal, Lunduke says, 'will provide proof for others, who would also like to move their software businesses to be open source, that it is doable.'
Fans of the Mozilla Foundation's Firefox browser who funded an advertisement in The New York Times will finally get to see their names in print on Thursday.
Many open source projects (from phones to programming tools) have taken to crowd-funding sites (such as Kickstarter and indiegogo) in order to raise the cash needed for large-scale development. And, in some cases, this has worked out quite well.
Helping fund the time for me to become a Mesa contributor and document the experience to make it easier for others to understand where to start with the Mesa codebase. Many people have brought up the idea of crowd sourcing open source driver development. This is a small scale experiment to see if it could actually work.
Google is paying money to Eyeo, the company behind AdBlock Plus, so that its ads get through the browser ad remover.
Software Corp., late Thursday reported third-quarter net earnings of $6.49 million, or 9 cents a share, up from $997,000, or 2 cents a share, during the year-ago period. Pro forma earnings from continuing operations were $2.1 million, or 3 cents a share, compared with $1.2 million, or 2 cents a share, last year. The Fremont, Calif.-based maker of computer servers and storage systems said revenue for the three months ended April 30 rose to $10.3 million from $7.9 million. Analysts, on average, had forecast a per-share profit of 2 cents on revenue of $12 million.
You can use a special keyword $ORIGIN to say 'relative to the actual location of the executable'. Suddenly we found we could use -rpath $ORIGIN/lib and it worked. The game was loading the correct libraries, and so was stable and portable, but was also now completely in the spirit of the LGPL as well as the letter!
Doom 3 GPL source release [...] This source release does not contain any game data, the game data is still covered by the original EULA and must be obeyed as usual.
For the purpose of this Agreement, the Art Assets include pk3 archive inside of 'steelstorm/gamedata/' folder that contain two-dimensional and three-dimensional works of graphic art, photographs, prints and art reproductions, maps, charts, diagrams, models, and technical drawings, sound effects and musical arrangements, documentation and tutorial videos, and are licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license. The Engine, which includes Windows, Linux and Mac binaries, and the Engine's source code, are licensed under GNU GPL v2 license.
In my view, nonfree licenses that permit sharing are ok for works of art/entertainment, or that present some party's viewpoint (such as this article itself). Those works aren't meant for doing a practical job, so the argument about the users' control does not apply. Thus, I do not object if they are published with the CC-BY-NC-ND license, which allows only noncommercial redistribution of exact copies.
In contrast to the GPL, which is designed to prevent the proprietary commercialization of Open Source code, the BSD license places minimal restrictions on future behavior. This allows BSD code to remain Open Source or become integrated into commercial solutions, as a project's or company's needs change. In other words, the BSD license does not become a legal time-bomb at any point in the development process. In addition, since the BSD license does not come with the legal complexity of the GPL or LGPL licenses, it allows developers and companies to spend their time creating and promoting good code rather than worrying if that code violates licensing.
the BSD license allowed Apple to keep its changes proprietary
The existence of decaying technology, disorganization, and poor storage could in theory put a video game to sleep permanently -- never to be played again. Troubling admissions have surfaced over the years concerning video game preservation. When questions concerning re-releases of certain game titles are brought up during interviews with developers, for example, these developers would reveal issues of game production material being lost or destroyed. Certain game titles could not see a re-release due to various issues. One story began to circulate of source code being lost altogether for a well-known RPG, preventing its re-release on a new console.
[...]that no further patches to the title would be forthcoming. The community was predictably upset. Instead of giving up on the game, users decided that if Activision wasn't going to fix the bugs, they would. They wanted to save the game by getting Activision to open the source so it could be kept alive beyond the point where Activision lost interest. With some help from members of the development team that were active on fan forums, they were eventually able to convince Activision to release Call to Power II's source code in October of 2003.
BOLD MOVE TO HARNESS CREATIVE POWER OF THOUSANDS OF INTERNET DEVELOPERS; COMPANY MAKES NETSCAPE NAVIGATOR AND COMMUNICATOR 4.0 IMMEDIATELY FREE FOR ALL USERS, SEEDING MARKET FOR ENTERPRISE AND NETCENTER BUSINESSES
[...] The organization that manages open source developers working on the next generation of Netscape's browser and communication software. This event marked a historical milestone for the Internet as Netscape became the first major commercial software company to open its source code, a trend that has since been followed by several other corporations. Since the code was first published on the Internet, thousands of individuals and organizations have downloaded it and made hundreds of contributions to the software. Mozilla.org is now celebrating this one-year anniversary with a party Thursday night in San Francisco.
Sun's joint effort with CollabNet kicked into high gear on the OpenOffice Web site at 5 a.m. PST this morning with the release of much of the source code for the upcoming 6.0 version of StarOffice. According to Sun, this release of 9 million lines of code under GPL is the beginning of the largest open source software project ever.
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