John Mark over at Hyperic posted a blog the other day in part about Bruce Perens’ candidacy for the OSI board and he asked me to comment about it.
Now, John Mark works for Hyperic and I work for the OpenNMS Group and our two companies are partners, so I look with fondness on the folks over at Hyperic (heck, they even invite us to play in their NCAA bracket). But I disagree with their business model being called “open source” and every time I do it publicly, it results in a little more bad blood between our companies. That is something I really don’t want, to be honest.
What Hyperic does is publish some of their code under the GPL, a fine and noble open source license, but a portion of their code is proprietary and requires a commercial license to use just like any other commercial software product. This is much better than, say, HP, which requires that you purchase their API to integrate with OpenView, but it is a long way from the ideals set forth when open source was started.
The sad part is that this form of “open source” publishing, what I call the “shareware” model, is much more the norm than, say, what we do with OpenNMS. If you want VC money in “open source” these days, you have to adopt this model. The idea of having 100% of the code free and to put the majority control of a project into the hands of others scares the hell out of investors.
It’s not that the shareware model is wrong, or bad, or evil, it’s just different from what I’ve always known as open source. The sad fact is that “open source” these days is little more than a marketing term.
When we go to trade shows, people will come up to our booth and ask about our “per node” pricing. I give them a confused look as say that OpenNMS is open source. They will have often come from another booth where they were told that to get all of the features of an “open source” product they had to pay. Thus the fact that I have “open source” on my booth sign now implies to the market that there is some “catch” in order to get the most features out of the product. The term has been diluted and made almost meaningless.
While I wish Bruce the best of luck with his campaign, I’m thinking it’s time to simply come up with a new term. Something with less interpretive leeway than, say, the word “open”.
I’ve suggested to a few friends that we name the new initiative “Uhuru Source”. Taking a cue from the Ubuntu folks, “uhuru” is the Swahili word for “freedom” (and also where Lt. Uhura of Star Trek fame got her name). Uhuru Source would embrace the concepts of free software set up by Bruce and esr so long ago, and mean more than just the ability to see some source code.