Subject: Re: Free Software Business Models
From: Don Marti <>
Date: Tue, 19 May 2009 09:10:47 -0700

begin Dave Crossland quotation of Tue, May 19, 2009 at 03:55:42PM +0100:

> As someone looking to improve free software fonts, there are two
> routes open to me: Find a way to get people who don't demand
> proprietary-font-developer wages to publish free software fonts, or
> find a way to pay font developers who currently work in a proprietary
> software business model with a free software business model.

The first business model in this area is likely to be
(1) hire people to make quick-and-dirty "good enough
for web" clones of proprietary fonts  (2) put up an
"Are your Web Fonts Licensed?" page to crawl people's
sites for proprietary fonts (3) offer to sell them
the clones.

> So I'm very interested to hear the business models that work
> for free software, so I can try to roll them out for fonts.

Besides just charging for services, it seems that
there are two basic business models for free software:
Commoditize the Complement and Sell Options on
Future Support.

Commoditize the Complement
The idea is that you release the software to help
you get some other business, like Mozilla releasing
a free browser to get ad revenue from Google,
or Cypress Semiconductor releasing Linux driver
code to sell USB chips.  The software doesn't have
to be Free free--Adobe does the same strategy with
Acrobat Reader--but you might as well make the source
available to signal quality and possibly attract an
outside contribution.

Sell Options on Future Support
Customers are willing to pay for the option to get
support in the future, even if they might not use it.
This is how Red Hat can survive selling software
subscriptions that aren't a complement to anything
else it sells.

There are many other reasons to release free software,
but those seem to be to be the two basic ones that
count as business models.  There are other ways to
connect Free projects to markets, but they aren't in
use as software business models yet.

Don Marti                                 +1 510-332-1587 mobile
See you at OpenSource World: August 11-13, 2009 in San Francisco