In my 2006 piece The Open Source Incline, I argued that the license terms of an open source project will determine the level of community support it receives.
Last month I began to change my thinking.
The development models of projects can differ, even under the same license, and this may impact the amount of community support they get.
Thus a new incline is born. Call it the Open Source Development Incline.
- At the top of the incline are what I will call proprietary open source projects, owned by one company. Sun works on this model.
- In the middle of the incline we might put shared corporate projects, independent of any one sponsor, like Eclipse.
- At the bottom are true community projects, which don't seem to be owned by anyone. Drupal is an example.
In The Open Source Incline I suggested that licenses like the GPL draw more community contributions, which drives the project forward.
On the Open Source Development Incline, the jury is still out. Maybe having corporate sponsors is essential to progress. Maybe having just one, rather than several, is best.
Things really get confusing given the fact that projects can change where they lie on this incline. Many have considered mySQL a community project, even after it became an entrepreneurial one. Now it's definitely proprietary.
Should there be a different point on the incline for projects run by small companies, by start-ups, which are more dependent on the kindness of strangers than larger firms like Sun?
I think the success of mySQL in drawing new code contributions after its acquisition by Sun will have something to say about this.
The experiment has just begun.