The Future of Open Source, or Why Open Core Is Dead

I really appreciate all the links you’ve been sharing, @lux.

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open sourcing your core business product is a bad idea

This has profound implications that folks who like open source tend to not like thinking about.

What is or could be your “core” in large part reflects your financial scale. LinkedIn can give away a whole database. That’s a huge project, but still way smaller than the “core” of its business, financially speaking. But numerous startups are database companies, and compete with what LinkedIn put out. Others popped up to try and be the Kafka startup, or even to offer add-ons around it.

If we classed companies by size, say from 1 to 10, and also classed software projects by required technical effort, again 1 to 10, we could put the rule something like this: a class x company shouldn’t release any open source projects of class > x - some constant n, the bigger is n, the less risk the company runs. So, loosely, a “database company” should not release a database as open source, though a honking global social network or a sprawling Fortune 100 tech conglomerate can.

Even more generally, the most demanding work you or your company are capable of shouldn’t be open source. Your open source should be something less than that.