☞ Open Core Diminishes Freedoms

  • This was the received wisdom among the senior VPs at Sun just before the fall of the company. While there is a marginal justification for adding some closed software at the periphery of a large open source project, having a hobbyist-featured core that’s open source and then putting everything you need for the move to production in closed add-ons denies the basic software freedoms that make open source so appealing to business.

    It must be treated as equally toxic as the proprietary products open source displaced and which open core mimics. Avoid suppliers who idolise it.

  • MySQLer Henrik Ingo finds Mårten Mikos’ assertions about open core wanting: “open core does not qualify as open source, as per the definition. It is closed source. It is the opposite of open source.”
  • Brian Aker comments on Mickos’ plans at Eucalyptus and finds them wanting.

6 Responses

  1. Hi Simon

    Thanks for chiming in. I think this is an important topic to highlight. (It has nothing to do with Mårten or MySQL, it is the general trend that is important shine a light on.)

    Good luck at ForgeRock btw, while the technology is different, your company background is something I can easily relate to. Let’s keep in touch.

  2. Open Core is an abomination and companies doing it are shooting themselves in their feet. How ? You make the “core” available freely as open source and, as you pointed out, anyone moving it to production will probably need the closed/paid add-ons. FINE! This creates a market where another company can provide the functionality in your add-ons at a lower price and BAM! you have a competitor that’s not contributing anything back to the “core” and is fighting with you in price. How awesome!

    This is the same mistake Sun did with OpenSolaris when they wanted too much control over it. Companies like Nexenta and GreenBytes are not contributing as much as they could back to OpenSolaris.org while providing add-ons that compete against Sun’s 7000s servers at a lower price.

    Open Core is for short-sighted CEOs who don’t fully understand how to make money out of open source. I hope all open core companies die a painful death.

    The funny part of it is that companies doing open core and as a side effect bootstrapping their own competitors could probably ask for a government grant since they are helping the overall economy. Makes me sick.

    • Why do so many open source advocates fell the need to despise everybody they disagree with? Why the “die a painful death” crap?

  3. Simon,

    In my observation, it was the Apache founders who invented open core (although they did not use that term). Brian Behlendorf told me that they created the license such that they would be able to build closed-source additions and modifications in order to earn a living.

    Hence, open core has existed in the world of academic FOSS licenses since those licenses were written.

    Open core with a reciprocal license is similar, but it reserves the commercialization right to those who have a permission of the original authors of the code.

    Nothing, of course, prevents anyone from building more open code on the open core in question, thus providing full freedom for anyone to compete with the closed source features and to modify the code and redistribute it to the world.


  4. Hi Mårten

    I’m not exactly sure what point you are trying to argue by referring to Apache, since I don’t think anyone is debating who was the first one to do open core.

    In any case, Apache is an excellent example. You’re absolutely right that it is possible to embed Apache (or BSD, etc…) licensed software into closed source software. However, the resulting whole, such as a product like IBM’s Websphere, is then still closed source. Nobody in the open source community has been seen running around recommending Websphere as a great open source product. On the other hand, the Apache software themselves are hugely popular, and IBM’s contributions to them are of course appreciated.

    The opposition towards the new trend of open core addresses just this point: Don’t call yourself open source if you’re not. Historically, other attempts at trying to be open source when you’re not have also been met consistently with similar resistance (…like Microsoft’s Shared Source, or some fringe issues with CMS systems, etc…)

    (For analytical purposes I think it makes sense to distinguish the Apache/BSD type of embedding by 3rd parties and GPL based open core that is exclusive to the copyright holder, as is done by the 451 group: http://blogs.the451group.com/opensource/2009/07/08/what-is-open-core-licensing-and-what-isnt/ However, that’s a question of semantics and does not at all affect the open vs closed source question, so you’re free to suggest lumping them together if you think it makes sense, unless of course you’re just looking for an excuse to do what you’re doing.)

  5. […] is the same as the open core model: commercial extensions are not made available to the community. https://webmink.com/2010/06/24/links-for-2010-06-24/#comment-870. I agree with Matt Aslett that the open core model does not violate the Open Source Definition, […]

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