Open Source is not a Sin, It’s a blessing

open sourceAccording to at least one analyst and one  open source vendor, the term open source is no longer an identifying factor

Personally, I think that’s a misguided and shortsighted approach that will ultimately backfire.

Matt Aslett of the 451 Group wrote that:

“One of the things that I have observed in relation to open source-related business strategies in recent months is the decreased use of the term ‘open source’ as an identifying differentiator in some companies’ marketing material, either to describe the company or its software.”

For me, both as a tech journalist and as a user, I RELY on seeing the term open source to describe a piece of software.

The term open source to me means – no vendor lock-in, it means i can try out (at least a community version) without getting some kind of license key. It means there is likely a mailing list and a bug tracker — you know the stuff that provides transparency.

What has happened in my view is that some of the commercial open core vendors have so watered down the term open source in their own marketing as to make it meaningless. After all if a so called open core vendor (software based on open source but with added ‘stuff’ around it) has the bulk of the added ‘stuff’ non-open source (often the case), then being open source in that context doesn’t really matter, does it?

Open Source in its true form as defined by the Open Source Definition is not a sin as some might believe, it is a blessing. It tells users and companies that they won’t be locked it and that there is a community behind the software (or could be)

From a marketing perspective open source serves to differentiate versus a closed source competitor and remains a key checkbox item for many buyers both small business and enterprise. 

For those vendors that aren’t truly open source, I think they shouldn’t be using the term. but for those that are, PLEASE don’t abandon it, no matter what other vendors and analyst reports might say. Open Source is a differentiating factor in an increasingly commoditized world.

Sure the term has been improperly used by some, but it’s a term and a definition that has value from both a developer and marketing perspective. Let’s hope that the term open source continues to be used properly now by vendors that respect the definition and what it really is all about.

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