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Yakov Fain's Java Blog: The Open Source Life Cycle Examined

"Up in the sky a bunch of hawks (a.k.a. venture capitalists) are slowly sailing over the sourceforge ready to dive..."

The  Open Source Life Cycle

I like free software, especially if it’s legally free. When a bunch of programmers-enthusiasts gather in a basement ( a.k.a. sourceforge.net ) to write some tools for fun, it’s a real open source. Meanwhile, up in the sky a bunch of hawks (a.k.a. venture capitalists) are slowly  sailing over the sourceforge ready to dive... Then a tool xyz is getting popular and 50000 people have downloaded it. Creators of xyz start thinking, “Can xyz  make us some money?”.  At the same time  the hawk dives upon the download counter used as bait...

The corporate world ignores xyz for some time, until xyz  becomes a household name.  It’s a really difficult task for any software to be approved for use in production environment.  Meanwhile, up in the sky a bunch of hawks (a.k.a. open source service providers) are slowly sailing over the corporation ready to dive.  The corporation wind up with a free software and expensive service, training  and support.  At the end of the day, production  deployment of the open source software is far from being free, but  the total cost of ownership is still cheaper comparing to a similar commercial product.

So is this bad? Absolutely not. It’s a win-win situation:

  • for hawks (they make money)
  • for corporations (they save money)
  • for creators of the open source software (they become celebrities, which is exactly why they’ve gathered in the basement in the first place)
  • for regular developers like you and me (we can download free versions not only of the open source products, but legally free "developer's" (formerly trial) versions of commercial software).

    Who is the loser then? The short term loser is the software vendor who’s producing the tool competing with xyz. No worries. First off, they’ve earned enough money in the past reselling the written-once software. Second, instead of selling their software, they’ll make it free  and will charge premium for service and support. So they are not losers either.

    Next morning, in one of the basements two smart college kids will come up with a new idea (i.e. to make a better and faster search engine). While kids are working on their engine, the hawks are thinking of the proper business model for this tool. The president of the corporation N sleeps well...for another  couple of months

    Competition rules! Open source rules!

  • More Stories By Yakov Fain

    Yakov Fain is a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay. He wrote a thousand blogs (http://yakovfain.com) and several books about software development. Yakov authored and co-authored such books as "Angular 2 Development with TypeScript", "Java 24-Hour Trainer", and "Enterprise Web Development". His Twitter tag is @yfain

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    Most Recent Comments
    Yakov 12/31/05 07:37:09 AM EST

    Well, original title of this posting was "Open Source = Free? Yeah, Right!". But then I thought it was too nasty :)

    I'm pro open source... when it's used properly in the enterprise world as long as no one kid themselves thinking that it's free.

    I'm 100% pro open source when it comes to an individual developer: you have an easy access (and can participate in development) to an ocean of software, even though it's not as polished as its professional counterparts.

    And the most important thing: open source movement forces big guys to come up with some innovations and drop the prices of their "polished" products, which is good for everyone.

    Happy New Open Source Year!