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Business source - Is it really open source at this point - Monty Widenius

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  • User profile image
    davewill

    Regarding a recent post found on zdnet

    http://www.zdnet.com/open-source-its-true-cost-and-where-its-going-awry-by-monty-widenius-7000016024/

     

    Open-source advocate Michael 'Monty' Widenius, main author of the MySQL database, says changes in the movement over the past few years are threatening the viability of projects.

    Company attitudes to contributing finance and manpower to open-source initiatives have been shifting recently, according to Widenius. Ever since his earliest involvement in the mid-1990s immediately preceding the movement's emergence, people have been prepared to pay for software they valued.

    "Now the problem is that you have companies that are heavily using open source but refuse to pay anything back because they don't have to," Widenius said.

    "The whole problem with not having to is kind of new because the open-source movement doesn't go forward if nobody is prepared to pay. You actually make it harder for new companies to form around open source," he said.

    Sounds as if he didn't really see the obvious there. Competitive markets contain competitors who compete and therefore look for ways to gain the most advantage, which includes a lowest cost component. Taking for free. Can't get much lower cost than that.

    Widenius' answer to the problem is a form of licensing that he terms 'business source'. He believes it will enable open-source projects to generate as much income as their closed-source counterparts but still remain open.

    "The whole idea with business source is actually very trivial. It is a commercial licence that is time-based and which will become open source after a given time, usually three years. But you can get access to all the source. You can use it in any way but the source has a comment that says you can use it freely except in these circumstances when you have to pay," Widenius said.

    ...

    "Because you have the code, you know that if the vendor does something stupid, somebody else can give you the support for it. So you get all the benefits of open source except that a small portion of users has to pay. As long as you continue to develop the project, each version still gets a new timeline of three years."

    Is what he is describing really any different than the source code being in escrow?

    About the only thing different (I see) between this and escrow is with this the customer/vendor relationship is componentized. Meaning smaller vendors who can provide a product, that has 75% of a big vendor's bells and whistles (yet contains 100% of the core customer needs), and better customer service lose that advantage by having an open door for the vendor product/service "package" to be broken apart.

    What am I missing?

     

  • User profile image
    Frank Hileman

    The main difference would be the source code license. In the business model he describes, the license would eventually be an open source license. With source escrow, the license remains a standard commercial license. Nevertheless, you make a good point, in that for many customers, the final license doesn't matter -- the main issue is the current cost, and in that respect, it is similar to source escrow. For the long term life of the software, the "business source" license is worse after the software is released as open source, if it is simply exploited and used for free. On the other hand, commercial software companies can go defunct. In both cases, if no one is willing to support  or enhance the software, it is dead. "Business source" is a form of commercial software.

  • User profile image
    magicalclick

    Lolz, VS Express and SQL Express envy? I guess the NoSQL movement killed off their funding and they realized they don't have a sustainable business model. Timed license would block contributors to innovate the software for free, the whole core of free labor will break apart.

    Leaving WM on 5/2018 if no apps, no dedicated billboards where I drive, no Store name.
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  • User profile image
    montywi

    Yes, I know it's obvious and normal that companies are trying to save money. However, the point was that in early times of Open Source it was easier to build a product offering (not just a service offering) around Open Source as companies was prepared to pay for the product.  As this is changing, we need to find new models to get money for product development. Business source is one such model.

    The advantages of Business Source compared to having the source in escrow are:

    - Everyone gets full access to the source code at once, with the full rights
      to do any changes to it.
    - Most people should be able to modify, use and re-distribute the code
      without having to pay license fees. (One main idea with Business Source
      is that it should target only a very small group for payments).
    - The code is guaranteed to be Open Source eventually.
    - It's possible to get developers outside of the original company to be part of developing the product.  Not as much as with a truly Open Source product, but if the product is good enough for their needs, they will participate. After all, Business Source is much better than Open Core or closed source and it's easier to participate than create a new project...

    Just to make it clear, Business Source has notching to do with my work with the MySQL or MariaDB servers.  Business Source is a license that I often recommend companies that doing software development when they are asking me what license they should choose, assuming of course that I belive that they can't make enough money on dual licenses or services to reach their own goals.

    I am an Open Source advocate and believe that Open Source is a better way to create good software.  However I am also an entrepreneur and understand the value of having a company that can afford to pay salary to full time developers. Business Source is a bridge between these two ways of life.  When one has a sustainable business, then it's easy to go from Business Source to Open Source if needed.

    Hope the above clarifies things!

  • User profile image
    cbae

    , montywi wrote

    Yes, I know it's obvious and normal that companies are trying to save money.

    Is it supposed to be about saving money though? I thought it was supposed to be about "freedom".

    Or is it more accurately "freedom from having to pay for it"?

  • User profile image
    davewill

     

    @montywi:

    First, I'd like to thank you for using a discussion forum for discussion. I've never really understood the posting in the comments section of articles other than for the author.

    Second, welcome to C9.

    Third, let's get it on! (And I mean that with total sarcasm as you are decades ahead of me.)

    I'm going to follow up using your bullet list as that seems a good framework:

     

    - Everyone gets full access to the source code at once, with the full rights to do any changes to it.

    My understanding is that everyone gets full access to the source code after the source code has become 3 years old (a suggestion). That is according to the quote in the zdnet article so I'm taking that with a grain of salt (it is indirect internet information after all, no slams on zdnet intended).

    It is a commercial licence that is time-based and which will become open source after a given time, usually three years.

    During the three year window the source code is available to the producer (software development shop) and the buyer (business purchasing from the software development shop). During this time, the 3 year window, isn't the source code essentially in escrow, albeit without the need for the 3rd party?

    I think a key lack of understanding on my part lies in the subsequent comment

    You can use it in any way but the source has a comment that says you can use it freely except in these circumstances when you have to pay.

    Are you suggesting that the buyer is agreeing to the free access to the world of the source code during the 3 year window (with use restrictions)? If so, doesn't the business lose any competitive advantage they might be building during that time by having it exposed to competitors? (then this definitely isn't escrow anymore.)

     

    - Most people should be able to modify, use and re-distribute the code without having to pay license fees. (One main idea with Business Source is that it should target only a very small group for payments).

    By "most people" are you envisioning a pie chart of the market where a 20% wedge represents the payees and the remaining 80% are free riders (not meant in a derogatory manner)? The 3 year window is the enticer (the carrot) for the 20%?

     

    - The code is guaranteed to be Open Source eventually.

    This is an area that needs some elaboration or may be negated by your response to the business competitive advantage above. The code that does become open source is the 3 year old tagging of the source tree right? It wouldn't include any of the work on the source less than 3 years old correct?

     

    - It's possible to get developers outside of the original company to be part of developing the product.  Not as much as with a truly Open Source product, but if the product is good enough for their needs, they will participate. After all, Business Source is much better than Open Core or closed source and it's easier to participate than create a new project...

    At this point you must be suggesting that the full source tree, including the 3 year window, is freely accessible by everyone. If not why would a developer want to participate knowing that what he/she is seeing may be 3 years already changed?

     

     

    Having gone through the above, a couple of key clarifications, for me, are needed:

    What source code is actually opened and when in regards to the 3 year window?

    How is a buyer advantaged? It seems that it comes down to offering a platform that has the potential to enlist free development, but no guarantees. To do so the buyer gives up some competitive advantage by the exposure of the source code. So the buyer must get the product for less cost. Which means the more free development help given to the producer the better for the producer. But does that conflict with the 3 year window? i.e. producers are encouraged to enlist free help but free help is enticed by the latest source code.

     

    This may all come down to my vision of source code being an ongoing and evolving entity for the benefit of the buyer. Thus my hang ups with the 3 year window.

     

  • User profile image
    magicalclick

    @montywi: so, can we have details on how you track down people who violated the license and request a fee from the person who "unknowingly" used a modifies version of your product called KakaDB? And the reason they used KaKaDB is because it is free and the user doesn't allocate budget on it? I am saying this because who should you charge when you cannot find KaKaDB publisher anymore and the user had no idea where the publisher went as well. And the user cannot just stop using KaKaDB as their company relies on it, but, they don't have enough money to keep using this KaKaDB which violated your license. Let me give you a personal example about Getty Image. A friend of mine paid a web hosting company, and it provided a free site template. After a year or two, Getty image start harassing him because the fainted background image on the menu side bar is part of a Getty Image. And it is an extremely high priced. The image has taken from a colored desert photography, cropped to only see 1/4 corner of a dry tree from the desert scene. Turned to only green gradient and mirrored. Such common dry brush still have enough unique pattern to say this heavily modified photo originated from Getty Image. Getty Image has harassed him directly, refusing to contact the web hosting nor the template provider. Are you going to harass the clueless users just like Gatty Images? Using anything that can be modified and hard to verify its originality will leads to clueless user getting baited for no reason and get penalized. And the violator will just keep stealing and selling it and change his name before you find him.

    Leaving WM on 5/2018 if no apps, no dedicated billboards where I drive, no Store name.
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  • User profile image
    Frank Hileman

    @montywi: After hearing your explanation, I am more confused. If the source code is already accessible, before the multi-year time period has elapsed, the companies with no qualms about exploiting open source, will compile the source code and never pay a dime. This is in fact the majority of companies. I cannot see how the quasi-open source state improves the business model.

  • User profile image
    acassis

    @magicalclick and @FrankHileman: the point you both touched is really relevant, in fact for people who doesn't respect a license, the GPL or the Business Source are the same thing.

    This license only make sense "against" BIG companies like B.I.G.M, Sony, Samsung, Apple, etc, because if they are using a code licensed as Business Source someone else will discover (well, they could encrypt the binary, etc, but there are ways to discover) and will turn this fact public. Then they will need to start to pay, when it happens to be GPL they "just need" to open-source, no need to pay (it depends).

    I don't understand why these companies don't use FreeBSD instead of Linux, BSD license instead of GPL? Until now only Apple were using mainly BSD instead of GPL (it uses GPL as well, but starts using GPL, makes not relevant contributions to original project and then recreate their libraries for scratch to avoid GPL. Exception: WebKit).

    Now Sony will use BSD on their new console PS4:

    http://gimmegimmegames.com/2013/03/ps4-ui-can-display-in-4k-importance-of-gpgpu-and-more-os-details-from-mark-cerny/

    At end of day none company want to contribute back (main exception: RedHat) they just want to *suck more* ...

  • User profile image
    montywi

    @davewill:I will here try to address all of your questions:

    Q: "My understanding is that everyone gets full access to the source code after the source code has become 3 years old (a suggestion)."

    One doesn't have to wait for 3 years to get the source. One of the main ideas behind Business Source is that you get access to the source at once.

    I have tried to describe this and other common questions in detail at
    http://monty-says.blogspot.de/2013/06/business-source-software-license-with.html

    Q: "doesn't the business lose any competitive advantage they might be building during that time by having it exposed to competitors? (then this definitely isn't escrow anymore.)"

    A: In my experience it's a very small risk of having your code accessible for competitors.
    - Closed source competitors are still bound by your copyright and license terms.  If your final license is GPL there is even less
    - Open source competitors can't use your code for some time.

    In practice it's very hard to steal code from any project and use it in another.  Different code bases, different coding styles etc.


    Q: "By "most people" are you envisioning a pie chart of the market where a 20% wedge represents the payees and the remaining 80% are free riders (not meant in a derogatory manner)? The 3 year window is the enticer (the carrot) for the 20%?"


    A: The number of people that should be able to use the code for free is depending on the project. With MySQL we could do a good business with only one in 1000 to pay. In other project it may be one in 100.


    Q: "The code that does become open source is the 3 year old tagging of the source tree right? It wouldn't include any of the work on the source less than 3 years old correct?"

    A: For each new release the date will change to 3 years from the release date.
    This is the way that company ensures that it can continue to get license revenut, as long as they are continuing to develop the product.

    Q: "At this point you must be suggesting that the full source tree, including the 3 year window, is freely accessible by everyone. "

    A: Yes, that what I have tried to say from the start Wink

    Q: "What source code is actually opened and when in regards to the 3 year window?"

    A: All code

    Q: "How is a buyer advantaged ?"

    A: Most of the benefits of using open source

    - No vendor locking;  If the vendor stops supporting the code anyone can take over it.
    - Anyone can give support on the code
    - Anyone can develop the code further and fix bugs
    etc

  • User profile image
    montywi

    @magicalclick

    :"so, can we have details on how you track down people who violated the license and request a fee from the person who "unknowingly" used a modifies version of your product called KakaDB?"

    You don't have to track them done, similar to that you don't have to track people down that are misusing open source.

    - Sooner or later things will be exposed, especially in closed source code and then they will come to you.
    - When going open source or business source there will always be people that will misuse your license. From a business point of view this is not that important as you get a much bigger user base and from that a bigger customer base to offset the freeloaders.

    "And the user cannot just stop using KaKaDB as their company relies on it, but, they don't have enough money to keep using this KaKaDB which violated your license"

    This is a normal business case for both parties.  If someone is using your software and violating the license for it they don't have any other choice than stop using for it or coming to an agreement of how much to pay for it.

    "Are you going to harass the clueless users just like Gatty Images ?"

    You can't use images or software that you are not allowed to use. If the user, or the person that installed the software, has not paid for the software or image you can't use it.

    This is the same thing as having a car that a thief sold to you.  Just because you didn't know that car was stolen, doesn't mean that you can continue using it after you got notified it was stolen.

    "Using anything that can be modified and hard to verify its originality will leads to clueless user getting baited for no reason and get penalized."

    The point is that if you can prove it's your software and it's used against the license you published it under, you are entitled to compensation from the user.  If the software was closed source, open source or business source doesn't affect this.

  • User profile image
    montywi

    @Frank Hileman:

    Q: "After hearing your explanation, I am more confused. If the source code is already accessible, before the multi-year time period has elapsed, the companies with no qualms about exploiting open source, will compile the source code and never pay a dime. This is in fact the majority of companies"

    This is the risk you always have when you release code as open source or business source.

    The problem of using code against the license is a thing that mostly happens with small companies. Most big companies would never do that. The damages if they would ever get caught of doing that would be so big that they can't risk that.

    When releasing things in open source or business source your are always making a bet that there exists enough honest companies so that you create a profitable business.   This was the bet we made with MySQL and that worked out quite well.

    In my experience the offset of having a much bigger user base offsets well the dishonest companies that will try to take advantage over you.

  • User profile image
    figuerres

    , montywi wrote

    @Frank Hileman:

    Q: "After hearing your explanation, I am more confused. If the source code is already accessible, before the multi-year time period has elapsed, the companies with no qualms about exploiting open source, will compile the source code and never pay a dime. This is in fact the majority of companies"

    This is the risk you always have when you release code as open source or business source.

    The problem of using code against the license is a thing that mostly happens with small companies. Most big companies would never do that. The damages if they would ever get caught of doing that would be so big that they can't risk that.

    When releasing things in open source or business source your are always making a bet that there exists enough honest companies so that you create a profitable business.   This was the bet we made with MySQL and that worked out quite well.

    In my experience the offset of having a much bigger user base offsets well the dishonest companies that will try to take advantage over you.

    so you are betting that the small number of large corp licenses make up for the hundreds of small biz that use it and never pay ?

    seems like a large risk for a small profit and a lot of "trust" in companies to 'do right' rather than go for the money they can save.

    and you also are ignoring the ways a smart and greedy developer can keep the real ownership under the radar - and you never find out that they made bank on it.

    I think if the code is published and accessible then it's up for grabs and you have to accept that the greedy / underhanded and such will do what they want.  

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