Subject: Re: Free Software Insurance
From: "Benjamin J. Tilly " <ben_tilly@operamail.com>
Date: Mon, 13 Jan 2003 08:44:27 +0500

robin <robin@roblimo.com> wrote:
> I don't know if anyone has thought of this or tried it, but what about 
> third-party insurance for selected free software packages?

This was discussed some time ago.  I believe that Russell
Nelson mentioned having tried this with his packet
drivers.

> In practice, this might be some sort of remote network administration 
> and security patch/update service backed by performance and liability 
> bonds of some sort. Naturally, policies/contracts would need to be 
> written carefully, and would only cover certain approved software and 
> hardware combinations.

The needed care was mentioned by Russell.  I believe that
he also mentioned discovering that there is a ver fine
line between "support" and "feature request".

A bigger problem is that people do not care so much
about having the insurance as knowing that the quality
is high enough that someone is willing to insure it.  In
other words you have to do substantial Q&A, and then
people get most of the value (ie "This combination is
known to work well") for free.

And the people who *do* care are often going to be people
who have already discovered that they have a problem of
some sort...

It is possible that the necessary knowledge for this
business model is better used by finding some way to use
it without giving it away.  For instance in helping people
set up and administer boxes, or in doing Q&A for a
reseller.

> This could become a powerful marketing tool. Or gimmick, depending on 
> how you look at it. But whichever you call it, this could be a way to 
> profit from free software deployment and, at the same time help finance 
> continued development of covered packages. The best thing about selling 
> "software insurance"  is that it could be descibed and marketed in a way 
> that a majority of business managers would understand without having to 
> learn any new intellectual property concepts.

The opportunity may be there.  My comments are based on
half-remembered descriptions of other people's past
experience.

Cheers,
Ben
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