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Why Open Source Became a Backbone Business Concept in Software Development

Author: Andriy Zherdiy

      The notion “Open Source” has been used for the first time twenty years ago and since that time it became ipso facto a touchstone in software development industry convincing the vendors and the users that this is a vibrant business approach. Since providing free access to the source code for further distribution and changing may sound rather altruistic, plenty of ventures are proving the opposite by showing profits earned when applying the open source business model.

     Leading by the example of tech giants such as Facebook and Google points out the emerging profitability of open source and its viability. The reason for open source success is as clear as day: the core of open source is a dynamic innovative paradigm represented by extremely tight cooperation and knowledge distribution. Thanks to the high level of personal engagement in collaboration much better results are achieved.

     These days open source is ubiquitous. However, in order to make profits from using open source, it is crucial to learn more about its nature.

     Open Source Genesis: Aspiring to Freedom

   Free access software concept was launched by MIT coder Richard Stallman in 1983 being a reaction to a patented software strangle and following the idea that utilization of personal computers must not obstruct collaboration between multiple users. Thus, at the very beginning, open source was more about freedom of action than cost-free.

    At the beginning of his career in MIT Richard Stallman was a member of the code distribution community and he was really disappointed by the confidentiality limitations of patented software disclosure. Therefore, he generated GNU Project, the first open-source operating system, and right after system launch he quitted MIT being afraid that it may lay claim to the product and restrict free access to the product.

    The key feature of the GNU Project was a copyleft method by using which the system has been licensed. In a nutshell, this method allows any user copying, changing and distributing the program but no one can introduce extra authorization constrictions. In such a manner the copyleft approach was later proclaimed as a General Public License and it secured the freedom of public access to any software code created.

    Yet, at that point in time, Richard Stallman and his supporters of free access software had no majority of votes in this matter. Free software seemed to be too penny wise and pound foolish to the businesses, therefore, they were not interested to invest into it actively. The situation changed when the concept has been renamed from “free access software” to “open source” fifteen years later and the vendors started realizing earning potential from establishing public programming communities focused on free code production and improvement.

     Adaptable Authorization and Income Extraction

   Although it may seem different, open source concept and profits were interconnected from the very beginning. Just for this purpose, the free software concept has been renamed to “open source” in order to make the whole idea sound less altruistic and more innovative.

   Apache Software Foundation is considered to be among the first open source projects on the market. Thanks to ASF the vendors of further open source startups explored lots of commercial intricacies comprising generation of Apache License which provides with the same degree of openness as GPL and avoiding the necessity to share the modified parts of code under the same authorization. Such adaptable type of licensing cleared a path for investors’ interest to benefit from open source software.

   In fact, Apache Software Foundation suggested a novel approach for the open source and the companies collaborate: the businesses can participate in the foundation being represented by individual persons. It is crucially important to support self-sufficiency and society of the open source startup which let the companies having a right to impact the project but without the possibility to appropriate it.

   The aforementioned paradigms of open source commercialization have become the basis for launching multiple free software generation projects and are broadly deployed nowadays.

    Dawn of Open Source Commercialization

  As long as the open source concept was spreading and growing in popularity, GitHub has announced pull-request for the open source in public. It allowed the vendors and the individuals improving the software in the easiest way which provoked a net reaction. The velocity of open source expansion was terrific and it grabbed the attention of software vendors and investors.

   Since the number of businesses brought themselves to the open source grew significantly, the overall perception of free software concept has moved from hesitating whether it is worthwhile to invest in open source to figure out how its business strategy looks like. Moreover, open source society has been one more fact convincing the entrepreneurs to challenge open source projects in order to increase incomes.

   Two-part authorization appeared as a primary status of the open source business approach. According to this conception, a vendor presents the same software product under two separate licenses – the open source and the patented ones. In this way, a company is able to monitor the integrity of the application as well as the community members who are involved in software modification transfer their proprietary rights to the owner. Depriving copyrights of contributors made them worry about the viability of the open source concept. However, when Oracle has acquired MySQL, it was a groundbreaking move but still, those worries turned out to be unsubstantiated. Basically, the vendor of MySQL has even duplicated the product along with accompanying renaming into MariaDB in order to secure open source nature.

   Therefore, despite the fact that open source becomes the standard approach for vendors, society plays a crucial role in software improvement anyway.

   Open Source Being a Novel Marketing Strategy

  Today the experts, the business representatives, and the developers are on the same page declaring that open source is a key for top-notch software production. Since free software allows extracting higher incomes, using open source became a standard business approach. Nevertheless, open source is often affected by deliberate distortions, neglecting principles of transparent cooperation and corporate ethical code violation.

   In order to create flourishing open source venture, it is necessary to maintain and protect freedom of code: for example, the vendors must avoid dodging by using hidden paid services or deliberate limitations that might jeopardize the entire concept of free access software.

   The principles of open software multiplied by active commercialization lead to outstanding results embodied in сutting-edge solutions. The range of ventures such as Mesosphere, Elastic, Magento and others have proved that supporting the open source product and gaining benefits at the same time is a realistic task without putting freedom of public access at risk.

   Acting as a keeper of open source values has paid for itself at GitLab. Their business strategy is designed based on public contributions and the vendor prefers enhancing open source version of the product even upon the condition of transferring from Contributor License Agreement to a Developer Certificate of Origin which is called to facilitate the process of contribution.

   Open source is an idea and the open source trend has to be maintained and promoted according to the ground-breaking principles of code openness and accessibility. In turn, the open source communities protecting the concept of free code will secure a favorable ecosystem for a cooperative and innovative software product.

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