At the Edge of Open Source Communities and Companies

Matt Aslett has made his stance on a discussion that started on Twitter about Open Source vendors giving away control to their community with the goal of better monetization. I concur with Savio Rodriguez’s doubts, but I believe that it is an issue worth while to be discussed, because it basically questions of the open core business model favored by investors.

As you might expect, let me take a look at it from the marketing perspective.

What I see in markets where plenty of open source offerings exist with a multitude of business models (e.g. in the CMS space), is that there is growing pressure on vendor-driven models to adopt more of the benefits of the community-driven model and vice versa.

There are various business tools that allow OSS vendors and their investors to test how much they will actually benefit from gradually moving control to the community. Switching to a more permissive license might be the last step.

For example, OSS vendors can increasingly include community members in discussing and executing the marketing strategy. Furthermore, a vendor could initialize a community board where the vendor discusses release cycles and development issues with community members. Both efforts could later lead towards a community-owned association that holds the trademark and decides upon the development roadmap.

On the other hand, community-driven OSS projects sometimes envy OSS vendors, especially when it comes to the ability of rolling out a focused marketing. I’ve heard from a hand full of board members of OSS associations that they’d love to a) actually have a marketing budget and b) have control over that budget without the need for lengthy discussions to reach consensus among the community. Things might perhaps be moving towards some light vendor-style structures here, given that OSS projects need to increasingly compete with OSS vendors. In the end, it’s all about OSS projects becoming more professional.

About Sandro Groganz

Sandro Groganz is an expert in the field of marketing open-source products. He co-founded Age of Peers, a global communications agency for organizations in Open Source. He served as Head of Marketing at Magnolia, creator of the open web content management system Magnolia CMS, Vice President of Marketing at Mindquarry, an open source startup financed by Hasso Plattner Ventures, and Vice President of Communication at eZ Systems, the creator of the open source content management system eZ Publish.

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