AJAX, Open Source, and Business Models
Had I but world enough and time . . . I would do an audio mashup of these two conversations. That is, assuming I couldn’t warp space and time and cause the two discussions to have occured together in the first place.
The first audio source would be this panel from the recent Usenix conference in Boston on Open Source Business Models – moderated by my colleague Stephen Walli. The panel was on June 1st, and included Brian Aker (MySQL), Miguel de Icaza (Novell/Ximian), and Mike Olsen (Oracle/SleepyCat), discussing various issues about building communities of users, benefits of different licensing models, software patents, and the challenges of good business execution, all in the context of open source. (Audio is at Stephe’s blog, comments also at Brian Aker’s)
The second audio source in my mash-up / remix would be two episodes of RedMonk Radio, Episode 12 Part 1 and Episode 12 Part 2. (These are both joint podcasts with the DrunkandRetired.com Podcast where they are episodes 53 and 54).
The focus of the second discussion (not a panel but a podcast conversation) was “The Business and Technology of AJAX,” and participants included Cote (RedMonk), Charles Lowell (The Front Side), and AndrÃƒÂ© Charland (eBusinessApplications).
The benefit of bringing them together would be to ask the Open Source panel about AJAX and to ask the AJAX panel about Open Source.
What they don’t ever mention is why they’ve chosen proprietary licensing as a business model, or how they differentiate their offerings against the broad variety of open source AJAX frameworks.
In the “Open Source Business Models” panel, there was lots of good discussion about the pros and cons of various licensing models – including Miguel de Icaza’s assertion that if he were starting a new business now it would not be open source based. One of the intriguing suggestions from that panel would be the notion that subscription models may be the next major step for Open Source based business models where dual licensing isn’t an option.
But why? What is it about AJAX development in particular that makes it seem awkward to rely on a set of proprietary AJAX components?
Components or Libraries (for charting, graphing, data manipulation, etc) have been common (and commercial) in the .NET and J2EE worlds for a while now, and of course for C++ going back to well before my days as a developer.
It may be that I’m underestimating the value a well-designed AJAX framework under a proprietary license can offer – but my gut still says these frameworks will ultimately evolve in the direction of either dual licensing (we’re free if you’re free) or open source plus paid support.