Subject: Re: Successful FSBs
From: "David Kaufman" <david@gigawatt.com>
Date: Wed, 25 Sep 2002 02:09:24 -0400

Rich Morin <rdm@cfcl.com> wrote:

> [...] most FSBs find _something_ to restrict, in order to coerce
> the "free beer" crowd into dipping into their wallets.  It could be
> distribution, features, support, updates, or something else, but there
> is almost always a part of the offering that you can't get for free.

true.  that's why i like Tim's observation that perhaps it's not so much
a matter of finding profitable FSB's as it is a matter of finding in
what ways, and to what degree, businesses can, or must, produce un-free
(as in freedom) products and services to extend, augment and subsidize
their free software products and services.

snort, for instance, is embracing both extremes quite successfully and
seems to me, to perhaps be one model that could apply to many free
software projects.  snort.org offers the "pure" GPL'ed product, with
full source code, sourceforge CVS access, mailing lists and freedom
for the price of a free beer.  simultaneously, the author operates a
business dedicated to selling the same product, with a sexier name, more
slickly packaged, well-marketed and optionally bundled with high-end
technical service packages, hardware and even hosting service options.

snort seems to be a great candidate for Simon's interviews as well as a
good example of the dual-licensing model, with the split-personality
twist.  is snort a proprietary product or open source?  it is whichever
you need it to be, depending on the your needs as the user, or the
"audience", if you will.  snort.org's audience needs open-source and
they get it.  sourcefire.com's audience needs a sales rep, a warrantee,
a service contract, a shrink-wrapped box (or optionally, a rackmountable
box) and they get it.  it's a great example of the marketing axiom that
people value a thing based more on the price they have to pay for it,
than on it's actual inherent "value".

contrast this with MySQL, who also dual-licenses, but does not
"dual-market" their software.  they seem to be missing the point that
snort has embraced: if you're selling bottled water, you might not want
to include the fact (in your marketing brochures) that the same water in
the Perrier bottle can be acquired for free from the same stream, if you
don't want to pay for the bottle, the label, or delivery (to a $1.00
vending machine near you).  of course it is true that GPL'd MySQL and
proprietary MySQL are the same thing, but if Marty Roesch were in
charge mysql.com would redirect browsers to mysql.org, where a
Times-font, no-frills, no-gif's, geek-friendly site would offer source
code, build instructions, mailing lists and CVS snapshots, while
SQLFire.com (or some such) would sell the product with a department of
marketing staff writing the press releases, ad designers fashioning the
new logo, and the only technical development going on there would be
re-configuring InstallShield to each new released version, bundling the
dbserver with different operating systems and expensive hardware, and
re-programming the call-routing software for the new floor of tech
support operators and for-rent company technical consultants.

i suppose those customers who can pay hundreds or thousands for a
license want to see that they are getting a "high value" product, and
either don't realize or don't care that a similarly functional free (as
in both freedom and beer) version is available, as well.

it *feels* deceptive to me, to be so duplicitous, but the ends do seem
to justify the means, as the geeks who frequent the geek-friendly
snort.org *are* driving up the value of SourceFire's proprietary
product, and they do deserve a free-as-in-beer unlimited royalty-free
license to the product, with a side order of freedom, for their
contributions, and those (we) geeks who don't happen to contribute?
well, i'll just consider the $25,000 license to be a tax on those who
can't be bothered to compile their own open-source software, install it
themselves without 1-800 tech support, and/or host it themselves on
their own server, or hire personnel to do so :-)

> That being the case, my question becomes "what part(s) of the total
> offering can I restrict, while doing the least damage to my goals in
> releasing the software?"  This depends entirely on my goals, but at
> least it is an answerable question.

if dual-licensing, with dual pricing, dual service-levels and dual
bundling is used, it would appear (mind you *just* appear) that nothing
significant is "held back" from the free version.  it is just targeted
towards developers who perhaps don't necessarily need (or want to pay
for) say, the slick foolproof install program, silk-screened CD,
friendly telephone tech support operators, and highly market-researched
and catchy new name.  i suppose it's a half-full vs. half-empty
question, whether you want to look at this as "restricting/limiting the
free version", or "enhancing the commercial version in ways the users of
the free version wouldn't really need or want, but that add ease of
puchase, ease of use, and other value that the less technical consumer
market sees as value", (like removing recusive acroyms, technical lingo,
and smileys from the documentation, and reformatting the manpage into a
printed booklet with screenshots and large print frinstance).

> Keeping the source code open is very important to me [...] to make my
> own creations available to others, for both others' benefit and mine.
> Other developers may have goals that differ from mine, however, and
> they should pick strategies that work toward their desired ends.

exactly.  i seem to be seeing this, in myself and others, over and over
again.  it's like Maslow's hierarchy of human needs, but turned upside
down.  developers of open-source software first and foremost seek
competence and self-actualization though conceiving, designing and
developing good software, *then* (in order of importance, not nec.
chronologically) we seek the approval, acceptance and esteem of our
peers, by sharing it and collaborating on it's improvement with other
developers, and then (seemingly least importantly) we try to figure out
how to use it to meet our basic human physical needs like paying the
rent and buying groceries.  ironically, the latter gets the least
attention, much less innovation.

but social peer-approval (from other developers and users) it is the
priority.  i'd rather write and collaborate and release free software in
my spare time, and find some *other* way to support myself, than hide my
source or discourage other developers, my colleagues, from
collaborating, contributing and sharing in the satisfaction (and esteem)
that we get from
producing high quality software.

of course, money doesn't appear to be damaging snort's goals, esteem or
product one bit :-)

i'm quite interested in hearing how others feel about the dual licensing
+ dual branding model that snort is using,

-dave