Capobianco’s OSS 2008 Keynote

Fabrizio Capobianco made the slides from his OSS 2008 keynote available. This is the same conference where we reported about the total (exponential) growth of open source. Unfortunately I had to leave right after our talk for the Wiki Symposium so I didn’t catch him nor could I listen to his talk. His slides, however, provide great talking points and insights that he probably communicated to his audience.

AGPL, the honest open source license

Most notably, Capobianco is known these days for helping push through the AGPL as an OSI-approved open source license. The AGPL is the extension of the dominant GPL license; it covers the “ASP loophole” where web service providers did not have to share their modifications to GPLed code, because providing a web service does not constitute distributing code. This is not to the liking of such service providers, of course: Google, for example, does not offer the AGPL as an option on Google Code, ostensibly because they consider it a vanity license. In my mind, by denying the AGPL, they are just creating a continued PR nightmare for themselves. Capobianco calls the AGPL the honest open source license as the ASP loophole needed to be fixed.


The future, according to Capobianco is open source coupled with software-as-a-service (SaaS). It is obvious that they are joined at the hip, however, how exactly they are joined and what it means for traditionally delivered software has been unclear to many. Capobianco’s slides are clear: There will only be open source and there will only be SaaS so why bother about traditional software delivery models? My impression here is that he is defining SaaS rather broadly. He does not deny the continued existence of on-premises deployed software, which is what most consider traditional software, even if it works over the local Intranet. I think what he is really talking about is a change in revenue models, i.e. charging customers by seat or load and not in coarse categories. But this change has been happening for a while already with traditional vendors trying to optimize their revenue streams.

Not upselling your community

Another interesting point is that you should not try to upsell users of your community edition to your commercial edition. This is an interesting contradiction to the MySQLs and Alfrescos of this world who clearly deploy sales and marketing people to reach out to potential customers in the user base of their community edition. I’m not sure I understand his point here, but as Capobianco notes, working with your community is a tightrope walk, requiring significant social skills and business understanding. Most likely, he is just arguing that you should not actively harass them; general marketing and sales activities are fine to catch those community-edition users who are ready to switch to the commercial (enterprise) version.

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  1. Dirk Riehle Avatar

    @bkuhn I don’t actually know the details of Capobianco’s involvement with the AGPL; what I do know is that he is an outspoken supporter, and this is good. I support the AGPL v3 as well—it is a true and important open source license, not a vanity license.

  2. […] Dirk Riehle has an interesting summary in his blog of Fabrizio Capobianco’s keynote at OSS 2008. Riehle credits Capobianco as the primary catalyst for OSI approval of the AGPLv3. I didn’t realize we owed Capobianco our thanks for that, but I am glad he did that work and wanted to take an opportunity to thank him for it! […]

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