Going Open Source - Why we're giving it away for free

Posted on Sep 24th 2009

Part 1. Why We're Going Open Source

Our company has taken the initiative over the past 6 months to try new things, act socially, and become community driven.

We see going open source as a natural step in this initiative and see it as a way to support the community that supported us.

We recently made the decision to open source a number of our products and make them available for free to the community because we think there are a number of benefits:

  • Share our software with a larger audience
  • Remove the security burden involved in proprietary software
  • Improve the software – bugs/documentation
  • Get access to additional developers

As a developer for a company who sells software services and products (such as CMS's, eCommerce systems, and Reservation Engines) I am pretty passionate about our software and code… sometimes even protective.

Don’t get me wrong - I love sharing ideas, code, and helping people where I can but when you’re wrapped up in a neat little proprietary world of contracts, quotes and support agreements, you start to tighten your grip.

During my contracting days, before working at eTourism, I was involved in a number of small open source projects.  On the whole my contribution was small, but I enjoyed the thought that somehow I helped improve the product or add something useful.  I guess in reality I probably only contributed because it helped me too.

And that’s really the point right? The decision to open source isn’t just because we want to share – we want the community to share with us too.

It didn't take us long to realise that going open source doesn’t mean losing money.  You can still make money from open source!  It just means we’re not afraid to share the code.

We will still need to custom build systems, deliver support, and provide solutions – in fact nothing really changes from a sales point of view.  The foundation is much more transparent.

We’re not under any false expectations that open sourcing a product suddenly means thousands of downloads, contributors hacking at code each day, or any notoriety whatsoever because in reality there are plenty of open source projects which have no additional exposure than they had when they were a closed project.

There are also some great open source success stories – you only have to take a look at sourceforge.net and witness some of the most popular software being offered as open source.

In the end, we believe we have some useful software that we hope will be useful to other individuals and organisations.  The kind of individuals and organisations, that prior to going open source, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to share with.

Putting our code ‘out there’ means if we need to ramp up development we no longer have the security concern of sharing our code and can pull in additional developers as we need them – and just like when you invite someone over we want to make sure everything is neat and tidy so that means tighter quality, and better documentation.

In part 2, I’ll discuss what software is being open sourced, choosing an appropriate license, and starting the process.

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