Real Open Source

Does real open source matter points to an article about new business models around the open source movement. The article writes about Greenplum, which has built its proprietory products on other open source products, and raises the question whether Greenplum is an open source company or not!

Open source company?

In my opinion, there is nothing called as an open source company. Open source characteristics apply to a product, they are not for a company. We can always qualify a company working with open source products to be an open source one, but there can be various relationships between the company and the open source product. A company can:

  • develop an open source product
  • sponsor an open source product
  • use an open source product
  • provide service/support for an open source product
  • customize an open source product

There might be more. These relationships are exhibited by companies like Mozilla, Red Hat, Novelle, eZ Systems and more recently Automattic. Each of them have a different relationship with the open source product they are dealing with. Can all of them be called open source companies? I don’t know, but some of these products can be. WordPress, eZ publish, Mozilla Firefox are all open source products. They are so because they comply with the Open source guidelines. The most important being providing source along with the product. The next one – encouraging and accepting users participation to improve the product through continuous evolution.

One of the biggest misconceptions of an open source product is that it is free of charge. This is not true. That is the reason, eZ publish, inspite of having a dual license, is still an open source product. There are other free products available, but if they don’t provide the source, they are not open source.

Real Open Source?

Talking about Greenplum, if their product – Bizgres does not provide the source, it is not an open source product. I don’t think if we should coin a new term, “real” open source and try to incorporate a second rung of products. This does not say anything about the quality of the product – the product might be very effective and innovative, but it cannot be called an open source product. There should be no wrappers or layers around open source.

IMHO, there should be nothing as an open source company. Some of them might be qualifying themselves so for marketing purpose. A company’s involvement in open source movement will differ according to its relationship with open source products.

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Copyright Abhijit Nadgouda.

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