Historic Periods in (Single-Vendor) Commercial Open Source

While a comparatively young industry, the software industry nevertheless has a history, and taking from the playbook of other disciplines, understanding our history is important to understanding our future. So I want to ask:

What (if any) historic periods are there in single-vendor open source firms?

Please note that I’m asking about single-vendor open source firms only, which are companies that own most (or all) of the software they (partially) make available as open source software, next to providing it as products. This deliberately excludes pure service firms and the distributors like SUSE or Red Hat.

In my own view, there are three major periods, and I would like to ask for your general comments and also for your specific comments on my classification. The three periods are:

  1. The early days (until 2004, the pioneers). The early days started in the early nineties and ran until about 2004. Examples are TrollTech (Qt), Sleepycat (BerkeleyDB), and MySQL. Products tended to be technical applications. There was no template to derive your business model from, so they invented it along the way.
  2. Becoming mainstream (until about 2008). In the wake of the recovery from the dotcom bust, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists alike recognized the disruptive power of single-vendor open source and motivated a series of such firms; deployment was almost always on-premise. Products tended to be full-blown enterprise applications. Examples are SugarCRM, which coined the term commercial open source, Jaspersoft, and Mulesoft.
  3. The current (cloud) breed (starting around 2008). With the emergence of cloud services as a viable product provision model, a third wave of companies started, focusing on the cloud. Products shifted to infrastructure components and devops tooling. Examples are Redis, MongoDB, and Elastic.

I’d love to hear your opinion, whether you agree or not. If you respond, please let me know whether I can quote you in our research. Thanks!

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