Making money from open-source software

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Listening to the Syntax podcast episode What Open Source license should you use? on my morning walk today triggered in me an important realization – I am so incredibly fortunate to be working for a company devoted to the open-source ways of creating software.

When I was in college, I was frequently embroiled in debates over closed vs. open source software. People often argued that open-source was a nice & structured way to create high-quality hobby software and that proprietary/patented (closed-source) software was the only way to make serious money.

15 years later, I can proudly say not only were they wrong they certainly didn’t see coming the ubiquitousness of open-source software. All big closed-source software companies – Microsoft, HP, Apple, Adobe, you name it – are both using and producing notable open-source apps & libraries. Almost all new cool app startups offer both open-source and enterprise editions of their apps (this business model has a name – open core – I did a podcast on it some time ago).

So, to work at a company that had open-source as one of its founding values is a dream come true for me. From Automattic‘s website:

We believe in Open Source and the vast majority of our work is available under the GPL. We proudly dedicate 5% of our time to the open source WordPress Project.

P.S. One interesting insight from today’s podcast was the Functional Source License (FSL), a solution to prevent competitors from shamelessly copying an open-source product and at the same time encouraging companies to innovate rapidly before their software becomes open source.

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