I’ve finished reading the book Producing Open Source Software by Karl Fogel. It made it clearer to me how to proceed with the Digital Abundance Network and Quantified Prestige. When reading about the various different open source licenses, the GNU GPL is mentioned prominently.
I find it intriguing that the GPL is so popular. It prevents people from re-licensing GPL-licensed software in a proprietary package. So, what is free under the GPL, basically stays free forever, even if it is heavily modified and enhanced. That’s cool, because it encourages a culture of digital abundance. People can get free stuff in order to make more free stuff with it. In the end, a great digital commons is created that isn’t diminished, but enhanced, by intense use! Thus we get something like an anti-tragedy of the GPL-protected digital commons.
The only problem with that, is that it may still seem easier to get funding for proprietary software, even though a lot of open source software is made by software developers who are being paid for working on it. WordPress is a famous example of an open source project that took of quite dramatically. The following was supposed to become a collection of examples for business models for companies focusing on open source software:
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this forum runs on the GPL-licensed Discourse software. The company responsible for the core development of Discourse gets paid for premium hosting (too expensive for my budget, the F3 currently runs on my own virtual private server). So, it’s quite possible to earn money with open source software, but that usually works by offering services around the software.
Since everyone can get a copy of some piece of open source software, service marketplaces around popular open source software develop naturally. These marketplaces somewhat limit the price of the offered service. So, a company can’t rely on making enough money through offering services around the open source software that it develops, even (or especially if) it becomes rather popular.
That’s why many companies opt for open source licenses which allows them to create proprietary software on top of free software. Then they offer a “freemium” model: They develop an open source core software for everyone, and a proprietary premium version of that software for paying customers. However, that business model creates artificial scarcity, because most people are artificially restricted from getting access to a program, and its code, that could have been free.
I think that software developers should be paid to create open source software, because that kind of software benefits everyone, and rises the level of prosperity globally, thus having an equalizing effect on the economy: Everyone is better of, because everyone can use the best (software) tools. Proprietary software creates artificial scarcity. Still, are permissive open source licenses that allow the creation of proprietary software on the basis of open source software a net good thing? After all, one could argue that the proprietary software requires the creation of a free core in the first place, which is better than having no open source version at all.
Can permissive open source licenses facilitate the creation of more open source software than copyleft licenses like the GPL alone? Or does it slow down the road towards digital abundance? I am not sure about that. Perhaps some of you might know more about this issue @Darklight, @AlonzoTG, @Deku_shrub, @Elriel, @HoverHell, @losthobbit, @Macius_Szczur, @Nuzz, @TR_Amat, @technologiclee, @TheDoctor, @ZeUs.
Ideally, people would self-organize so that their efforts and money could enable the existence of an abundant open source software ecosystem that made proprietary software obsolete. This doesn’t seem to work too well in all areas in which software is produced. While Linux has become really popular for internet servers, for example, private users still mostly use proprietary operating systems. If open source software was inherently economically superior to proprietary software, we should see a steady rise of the fraction of open source software in all areas. Why isn’t that really happening? Because end users are locked into a proprietary software ecosystem? Perhaps in the same manner that keyboards are locked into the dominance of the QWERTY layout?
Anyway, what could be done to help open source software win against proprietary software?