In a recent article on the New York Times Ashlee Vance argues that Open Source as a Model for Business Is Elusive (free registration required). There were many responses on various blogs trying to point out how RedHat, Google and Apple are open source businesses. See for example the responses of Mike Masnick, John M. Caddell or Sebastian Rupley and the comments on their blogs.
The one I really liked is that of David Asher, maybe not surprisingly as he is the CEO of Mozilla Messaging.
Often people look strangely at me when I point out that I don't think everyone writing software needs to become a millionaire. If by our work we can make a decent living that's good enough for most of us. If in the process we also enjoy what we do that's great. While most of the people working various places - even programmers - suffer in their workplace people writing open source code seem to enjoy a much larger part of their work time. That's a big plus.
In addition our work - while does not make us extra wealthy - it enables many other people to make a living. Some of those people will also become contributors to our project(s), others might contribute elsewhere.
Just think about perl and the various Perl projects how they create ecosystems in which many companies all over the world can make money by providing customization or support to the product. WebGUI was built by Plain Black but there are many companies around the world making money either using it or offering services around it. Same with Bricolage CMS and Catalyst and there are many others.
None of these companies will become the "next Microsoft" or the "next Apple" but they will make a living, hopefully a comfortable one.
Lastly, returning to the New York Times. They might not understand how to build an Open Source Business but I am happy they know how to use it and how to contribute back to the Perl community. So we can say that the New York Times is an open source business.
Published on 2009-12-02 by Gabor Szabo