Closed source use of the open source model

One big trend of this decade that has not been remarked-upon enough is how many closed source or proprietary products have adopted elements of the open source business model.

 

One big trend of this decade that has not been remarked-upon enough is how many closed source or proprietary products have adopted elements of the open source business model.

I mentioned one such company last year, Grisoft. They give anti-virus software away and then, once you become dependent on it, they tell you to buy it.

This has become commonplace, and it may be what the "user on the street" first thinks of when they think of open source. Vendors eliminate marketing costs and take advantage of the Internet's viral nature, turning users into salesmen.

It happened to me again this week with a product called Roboform, from Siber Systems. I needed a friend's password to use a site we shared, and it came enclosed with the software. Once you start juggling passwords and identities, Roboform asks you to buy the "pro" version, which starts at about $30 and carries a proprietary license.  

Most users aren't programmers. They aren't looking to mess with their software's source code. They wouldn't understand it if you handed it to them. So proprietary outfits have taken one element of the open source model, the giving away part, and adopted it to their own use.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with newspapers blogging, and nothing I can say about TV networks pulling tapes that once went to YouTube onto their sites so they can add ads to them. You might say they're all taking a step down the FOSS incline, and determined to make a profit from it.

But it's a long way down the incline to where the Liberty Alliance has recently gone with its identity management system.

They now offer elements of it as open source under an Apache 2.0 license. And the question becomes whether such a system can compete, in the mass market, against those who like Roboform took just a single step down that incline a long time ago.

 

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