The open source development incline

The open source development incline

Summary: 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.

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TOPICS: Oracle, Open Source
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Right triangleIn 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?

Are you more likely to hand code to, say, Appcelerator than to Sun Microsystems, even if the license terms are the same? Or is the relative maturity of Java more compelling?

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.

Topics: Oracle, Open Source

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  • The problem is when one company owns all of the right for proprietary use.

    This is true with Qt, MySQL, and others. These projects are completely free to use as long as you do NOT link any proprietary code with it, but the minute you want to use the product, but do not want to disclose your code, you pay. In this model, individuals and other companies are not as motivated to contribute, as someone else makes the profits.

    Actually, I think that MySQL should release all of the libraries under LGPL instead of GPL, and focus in on giving the best support, rather than using license tricks to get people to sign up for a license. If PostgreSQL gains much traction against them, they might be forced to do that sooner rather than later. Actually, with Sun behind MySQL, they might be more inclined to do that.
    DonnieBoy
  • RE: The open source development incline

    Dana,
    I like your incline. But I have to assume the incline is this crisp only some time after the startup of the project. Especially in the case of a small, maybe unknown, company I think there is a warmup period before you can expect any type of community to form around the project and then generate contributions.

    Am I off base on this? If not, what do you see or what have you experianced that shortens the warmup period?

    So I would say yes there should be another point on the incline for smaller less well known companies.

    Jon Weaver
    XAware.org
    jweaver@...
  • RE: The open source development incline

    I think the success of mySQL in drawing new code contributions after its acquisition by Sun will have something to say about this.<a href="http://ipadbagblog.com/"><font color="white"> k</font></a>
    zakkiromi