Don’t be Afraid of Open Source Software

Open source is just the “freemium” of the software industry

When publishers hear the words “open source”, it’s not uncommon for them to pack their bags and head for the hills. Some publishers think that using open source software means that they need to hire developers to “make it work” and many publishers think that open source software is only for a business looking to build something new.

In fact, open source software should be looked at as the LEAST scary term that has entered the industry! Six years ago, freeware was all the rage. Downloading free programs was a daily ritual for many business owners. Unfortunately, freeware gave a bad name to the industry because of increased virus attacks and faulty software that caused many computers to crash and need reformatting. Now it seems that the only way to get anything free is buy a Mac and download some approved widgets.

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This is where open source software comes in. Like freeware, the software is designed with users in mind, because the people developing the software are users too. Can you imagine having complete control over any software program you own? Every time you say, “man, I wish it did this, and this, and this,” you could make it happen? That is what open source is all about. Unlike freeware, much of the open source industry is run as legitimate business models. Recently, WordPress’s Automattic was given $29 million in funding, while MySQL was bought by Sun Microsystems for $1 billion.

How does the open source software industry make money?

This is a pretty common question. I mean, how can software that is free, make money for its owners and shareholders? Why would Sun Microsystems pay $1 billion for a company who makes a free product? If the question was how do WE make money with open source software, that’s easy. We’re saving money. We also might be using the codebase to create something totally new which we can then profit of.

In this case, open source developers and publishers are very much alike. The open source software is something of a “freemium”. Offering the software for free doesn’t mean that they can’t charge for reference manuals, “enterprise” versions, widgets and plugins, hosting, related events, support, certifications and other related paraphernalia. Also, as you’d imagine, pages that offer something free get a lot of hits, and pages that get a lot of hits tend to have a lot of advertising.

What are the risks of using open source software?

Like any software, you run the risk of the software having bugs, needing updates, etc. However, unlike regular software, you have a cult following working 24 hours a day to build any patches needed. This is also beneficial because upgrades are implemented much more frequently than any out-of-the box version of paid software.

Overall, there are tons of open source opportunities for you to look into. In most cases the technology that is available open source, is so far advanced, that you cannot find it in a paid version anyhow.

When people think of open source, many think of WordPress or MySQL, but there are also adservers, mobile platforms, productivity suites, bulletin boards, and content management systems.

However, if you’re looking to dabble before diving, maybe you should first get your toes wet and make the office a fresh batch of OpenCola.

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