Single-Vendor Open Source Firms (Dirk Riehle, IEEE Computer Column)

I’m happy to report that the seventh article in the Open Source Expanded column of IEEE Computer has been published.

TitleSingle-Vendor Open Source Firms
KeywordsOpen Source, Single-vendor Open Source, Commercial Open Source
AuthorsDirk Riehle, Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg
PublicationComputer vol. 53, no. 4 (April 2020), pp. 68-72

Abstract: This article present a particular business model for commercial open source firms, called the single-vendor open source model. This model has long dominated venture capital funding for open source software firms, contributing to the long-term sustainability of open source. As such, it is of high economic relevance. It is also an excellent example to show how open source licensing and related strategies really are just tools in the design of a business model and not philosophies.

As always, the article is freely available (local copy or HTML page).

Also, check out the full list of articles.

Please Help Keep our Language Precise: Single-Vendor Open Source is Neo-Proprietary Source, not Closed Source

When the Open Source Initiative defined open source, it focused only on the license, and ignored the process. Smart entrepreneurs quickly discovered that they could provide to the world their product as open source code and benefit from it, while strictly controllling the process to keep competition at bay. This is called single-vendor open source.

Single-vendor open source is not closed source, not even “the new” closed source. The following 2×2 matrix illustrates the distinction between license and process:

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Single-Vendor Open Source Firms and Intellectual Property Strategies (Video)

In this video, I explain the single-vendor open source business model (also: multi-licensing, open core) and in particular its intellectual property strategies. This talk is partly a reaction to the recent licensing changes by commercial open source firms and the resulting confusion. An upcoming article will go into more detail next year.

Next to the Youtube embed, there is also an ad-free version courtesy of FAU, my main employer, as well as a simple download available. Fast forward to the slides as well.

The Missed Opportunity in Defining Open Source #OpenCoreSummit

I’m at my Ph.D. student retreat, following the Open Core Summit, a commercial conference on the use of open source strategies by product vendors, on Twitter. From afar, it appears that the attack on the definition of open source has made it to the conference. This is regrettable, but possible because of a root problem with the open source definition as defined by the Open Source Initiative (OSI): It is about the licenses only. Only on the side, in the open source initiative’s mission statement does it say something about process:

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Triple-Licensing Single-Vendor Open Source Components (Illustrated)

I thought I’d illustrate how I’d solve the current licensing conundrum of single-vendor open source firms like MongoDB and Elastic using some graphics. In short: While open source application vendors can still dual-license, open source component vendors (like the companies just mentioned) need to triple-license to get the benefits of open source yet keep their competitors at bay.

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