I've been thinking about open sourcing some of my side projects, and was wondering how to approach this.
I don't think that open sourcing is necessarily a good way to gain traction, as it's not much easier to gain users on GitHub than on the web in general.
And it seems like you're giving up the chances of making profit from the product.
Has anyone faced a similar dilemma?
How do you decide?
Latest comments (7)
I strongly recommend you read "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" by Eric S. Raymond, which answers all of your questions. (The question of economics particularly is addressed in the chapter/essay entitled "The Magic Cauldron")
Thanks Jason I'll have a look at it.
Since you are worried about "giving up the chances of making profit from the product" I'm assuming profit is not a primary goal, but due to a if you're good at something, never do it for free mentality you think "I already go through the trouble of developing this, so why not sell it and earn some money while I'm at it?"
The thing is - selling your software is not that easy:
And even if you invest time and money doing all that - you still need to get customers to buy your product. It needs to be considerably better (or have good marketing) than the free alternatives, with enough margins to convince the customers to deal with the bureaucracy of the payment and managing the licenses (if they want to install it on multiple machines), and if your software is a component in the customers' software they need to deal with the license's terms for redistribution...
Meanwhile, if you go open source:
Now, I'm not saying that you should never earn money for your work - but if you do, you need to plan it in advance, know what the risks and costs are, and have a business plan. Don't just reserve the option to do so without considering the cost of using that option.
Thanks Idan that's a great list, I actually didn't give the legal issues much thought. Although this is an issue mainly for B2B software I'd assume? If I'm making a B2C app I don't think there's much liability is there?
I don't have actual experience in this (I learn from others' experience) and I'm not a lawyer, but I find it hard to believe the law explicitly gives businesses better terms than it gives customers. Businesses do, however, have lawyers that can go through the contract and the leverage to demand changes in it, so they can probably get to put more liability on you.
At any rate, you'd want to consult a lawyer to determine what exactly your liabilities are and how you can get better terms. And lawyers cost money. With open source, you can just pick one of the standard licenses and you are pretty much settled.
"And it seems like you're giving up the chances of making profit from the product" is not necessarily true. There are numerous ways of making profit from a certain product. One of these ways is making it exclusive to you and only you.
Open Sourcing a project is probably a good way to gain traction and start building a name for yourself. First off, it would help you show-case your expertise and experience and compare those against other developers in the same field.
There's no unanimous choice. It's more of a weighing your pro's and con's for the whole thing. If you've got more specific questions I'd be more than happy to answer.