Two Types of Open Source Communities

tl;dr The communities that form around community open source are very different from those that form around commercial open source; confuse them at your own risk.


The recent announcement by Elastic to relicense their software away from open source licenses to commercial and source-available licenses only has triggered the debate about rights and expectations of open source communities again (local copy 1, 2, 3).

Legally speaking, I assume that this is fully within Elastic’s rights. I assume they either outright own all copyright to the relicensed code or collected copyrights by way of contributor license agreements from anyone whose code they accepted into their code base.

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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-N├╝rnberg
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.