Tue, 10 Jan 2006

Not Open Source?

Are you interested in giving away your source but not your profit stream? Do you want to gain the benefits of having public source code while keeping your code proprietary? I don't think that's possible. You can do it, but you can't call it Open Source. Legally, you can, because nobody holds a trademark on Open Source. However, most people understand Open Source software to be software which complies with the Open Source Definition. You run the risk of confusing the marketplace if you call your software Open Source and it doesn't. Confused customers don't spend money.

If you really want to give away your source and give up the benefits of full Open Source compliance, I encourage you to use the term "Source Available". It describes software which is somewhat open source, but which doesn't comply with the Open Source Definition.

The Open Source Definition isn't a manifesto, or statement of philosophical principles. It's an attempt to describe the freedoms you need to give to users in order to get them to contribute improvements back to you. It doesn't describe the process perfectly, but it captures most of the gains. If you don't comply with the Open Source Definition, you give up most of the benefits of producing Open Source software.

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