One of the major aspects that is often overlooked by businesses is how a software should be licensed. For those who have no idea regarding the license, a software license defines how a code can be used and distributed by licensees (the end users), which can make a significant impact on how widely the technology gets adopted. However, most softwares are sold under a proprietary license. This means with the help of the license, publishers or creators are allowed to retain the intellectual property rights of the software.
In today’s ever-changing digital era, there is an alternative viewpoint which contends that the puts an unnecessary level of control into the hands of software publishers. In order to prevent licenses from copying and changing a software’s source code, the idea holds, proprietary software publishers stifle innovation and hold back the potential growth of new technologies. As a result, a different set of licenses came into being that allows users the rights to study, change and share the software’s source code to their liking. Popularly known as free software” or “open-source software”, they are safer, more efficient, and work more reliably than their proprietary counterparts.
Now have you ever wondered why do we have two labels for the same thing? For that, you need to take a look in a bit of history, and an understanding of the nuances that form two separate but closely related movements. Before the 1970s, way back softwares were typically distributed along with its source code, and this was because the softwares being hardware-specific was that end users would have to modify it to run on their particular machine or to add special functionalities. As a result, people use to stay around computers in a strictly academic or research setting. And computing resources were often shared to create more efficient workflows or more reliable solutions was widely encouraged.
With changing time, softwares continued to become more complex and expensive to produce. And software companies sought out ways to halt the unbridled sharing of source code in order to protect their revenue streams and deny competitors access to their implementation.
Enter the Free Software
Since the inception of free softwares, there has been a religious war that inevitably ensures between the defenders of open-source and commercial product supporters. I mean being a part of a reliable open source software development company in UK, we people simply love the platform and have this passion to come up with solutions, unimpeded by the demands of commerce — i.e., shareholders.
I personally find open source softwares pretty attractive because you can see what you are getting yourself into and take an active role making suggestions or committing code to help it achieve the desired result. Well, I am not here to evangelize for open source but to explore some of the common challenges and misconceptions, and why they exist.
Commercial open source
Many professionals find commercial open source business model a tough thing when it comes to getting it right. However, you will come across many examples of fantastic companies out there today that I am content are getting it right. Now every business needs to be sustainable for the project to become a sustainable codebase upon which to develop enterprise applications is a feasible option.
And this is the point where most of the companies go wrong. I mean open source is not about giving everything for free- It simply means people can download the code and inspect it, perhaps make suggestions or fixes and try things out. Now having a product offered as both commercial and free open source software (FOSS) is a double-edged sword.
In case, if you download a free open source product and it does what you need, you might investigate the commercial offering to see if you can get the support and features for future needs. But if you download the software and you find there’s something you really need that’s missing, there’s a good chance you won’t go looking for a salesperson just to find out if the commercial version has it. And this is simply because you’ll have to explain your needs to someone outside your comfort zone, then understand the conditions and restrictions that apply and then add some more ‘if’ statements in your reasoning process. Which can never be a fun thing to do.