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To go open source or not?

Chris Musty's picture

 

Firstly I think the work you guys are doing is fantastic and the support base is amazing.
 
I recently developed an app for windows for my wife's Physical Therapy business because nothing could do what she wanted.
This was fine but had limitations like using it at home, security and maintenance.
I ported it into a web format but I used Real Software Web Edition which essentially uses CGI.
I am now consulting with many business contacts to create a general business management suite much like the Phreesoft thinggy that was recently posted on.
 
They are all blown away so far and are now talking about converting their data into my system.
 
Speaking to some associates (that offered to invest) I mentioned I would like to open source it.
They freaked out on me.
 
So my questions would be...
 
1/ Considering the application, is open sourcing a good idea?
2/ I understand it would raise my profile but would it be commercial suicide?
3/ Does anyone have any advice?
 
I really appreciate any time you guys give me regarding this.
Jeremy's picture

My 2c...

As you would know by now, I am not a coder, more of a tinkerer (unlike alon and Liraz, whom I'm guessing your question is more aimed at).

I think there are pros and cons both ways. From my perspective here are a few thoughts (although you have probably considered these...):

Open source:

  1. feel fuzzy good feeling :D (for sure)
  2. increase uptake and userbase of your app (probably)
  3. raise your profile as a coder/developer (almost certainly - because of 2)
  4. get other people to help with further development and adding features (possibly - again because of 2)
  5. find (and fix) bugs quicker and easier (most likely - because of 2 & 4)
  6. harder to monitise without careful planning
  7. may scare away potential investors (as you've seen)

Proprietry:

  1. easier to monitise (in theory - but will depend on userbase)
  2. development work will need to be done by you (or someone you employ/contract)
  3. may make getting investment easier

Obviously I'm biased and I am sure there are plenty of points I have missed, but for me (and people like me) it is rare that I will pay for anything proprietry. Unless there is nothing open source that doesn't fulfill my needs I will go open source everytime.

Open source can be monitised but you will need to focus on things such as SaaS, value added features such as support contracts and perhaps even 'premium' features/components/addons (eg integration with Windows desktop, iPhone/Android apps, etc)

So although I doubt it, hopefully I've added something of value...

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