Open, Source-Available

Published July 6, 2024

Author’s note: Upon publishing this post, I stumbled upon info related to fair core” and fair source” software. It seems like these concepts are still in the process of being defined—I don’t want to delete this—so I’ll either update this in the future, or more likely write a new post on the fair source” and/or fair core” concepts. This thread provides more context and has some great input from the founder of Keygen, Zeke, who I mention later in this post. Additionally, fair.io (and to a lesser extent osspledge.com) will be canonical sources in the near future when they’re fully launched. And finally, here’s one (and two) articles re: the above if you want to learn more.

Open-source” has been an overloaded term for a while now.

In my opinion and experience, the biggest misconception is people hear open source” and assume it means free as in beer” i.e. gratis but it usually actually means free as in speech” i.e. libre which is also completely debatable since there’s many different types of licenses that are still free and open” ranging from public domain to copyleft—permissive is somewhere in the middle.

I experienced this first-hand when I worked at Mattermost. Their core product was proudly open-source (not including enterprise features) but it was libre free, not gratis free. People expect a free tier to cost nothing. Shortly after I joined, a freemium” model was launched (for the second time) which didn’t really stick around. However, these days, there is a free tier.

To be clear: the opposite of free software is non-free, but this doesn’t explicitly mean proprietary—the traditional use of copyright—but could include noncommercial or trade secrets (no public info). Wikipedia has more info.

Some high-profile examples from recent years include Elastic and Hashicorp changing licenses. Hashicorp’s changes were more recent (within the past year, at the time of writing) and met with significantly more uproar which ultimately led to the creation of OpenTofu—the answer to Terraform going to a non-open-source license.

My favorite, and preferred, companies operate in an open core” model, which typically translates to there being a free (as in beer and speech) software product that is available to the community with no support and sans features that drive adoption by enterprises. This enterprise edition” then operates in a closed-source model since this is how revenue happens and ultimately is a happy medium between the open vs closed- source argument.

At this point you might ask isn’t this all semantics?”

Sure, I guess. But isn’t language just that: semantics? Without semantics there isn’t really anything.

And with that… I’ll repeat the title of this post: open, source-available.

Open, source-available.

(Again, for good measure.)

This is my favorite phrasing for the open core” model I mentioned above. It’s concise, pedantic, and of course… semantic. I first came across it when talking with the founder of Keygen—hi Zeke!—which operates in the same a similar model.

Gotta love words.


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Last modified July 6, 2024  #words   #opinion 


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