I am often told businesses have a duty/right/imperative to keep source code hidden for business reasons, to maximize profits. That’s not so. The benefits of sharing the code are real and large for businesses:
- sharing the cost of development of code,
- tapping a larger pool of users and bug-reports,
- selling services rather than licences, and
- having better input/feedback from users.
We have seen major examples of business choosing to convert their source code to GPL or other FLOSS licences before:
- Sun Microsystems and StarOffice evolving into OpenOffice.org,
- MySQL database management system,
- Netscape web browser became FireFox, and lately
- Citrix bought Cloud.com and released the source code to Apache Foundation.
It’s clear that selling licences only limits a business’ opportunities in the market. To really be a partner with the users is a huge advantage for business. Look at Google and Android/Linux. Google makes little or no money from distributing the source code but hundreds of millions of people love Google for providing great software for smart thingies and Google’s paying customers, advertisers, know that and give Google tons of business because of that cozy relationship. It would be irrational for Google to hide the source code and break the spell… OEMs love/trust Google because they can see the code and know Google is not messing with them. Consumers can buy great products at great prices because of that trust between Google and OEMs. Sharing is good for business.
H-online reviews some of the reasons business open the source code:
“If the UNIX companies had learnt anything from the UNIX wars, it was that proprietary operating systems, even if they are your own, cost money and create hurdles for other parts of your business. The arrival of GNU/Linux opened up new possibilities. There was an obligation to share, and a mutual advantage to be gained. The release of core chunks of corporate code accelerated the development of Linux and ensured its success in the enterprise, enhanced by its scalability across a wide range of hardware.”