Brad Feld

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Open Source or Closed Source?

Dec 18, 2005
Category Technology

Alan Shimel has a good post on a recent release of a formerly “open source” product called Nessus.  With the version 3.0 release, the authors abandoned the GPL license and effectively made it closed source.  While one can debate the rationale of the parties all day long, the fundamental issue surrounding the migration of “successful” open source projects to “closed source” as part of a commercialization phase is one that I think both vendors and customers be thrashing around with for a while. 

Recently, I’ve been exploring some thoughts with my former doctoral advisor Eric von Hippel on the broader issues surrounding Free / Open Source software.  There’s been a flurry of academic research in this arena that is covered nicely in Perspectives on Free and Open Source Software (co-edited by Karim Lakhani, one of Eric’s current students.)  My simpleminded conclusion is that there is an enormous amount of complexity around this issue, especially when you incorporate our completely busted software patent system into the mix.  While it’s easy to blow this off as something that will sort itself out, I don’t think it will and we’ll be living with the dynamics of the F/OSS ecosystem for a long time.