Subject: Re: commercial / proprietary
From: Alan Hudson <>
Date: Wed, 23 Feb 2005 09:11:03 -0800

David N. Welton wrote:

>Cool, that sounds like a good example.  You could probably get some
>mileage out of your story if you wrote it up.  It sounds like an
>interesting case study.  I would be interested to hear how you decided
>to create and release the products as open source rather than some
>other licensing scheme.
The local press have been interested in some non-microsoft stories here 
in Seattle so likely we will write it up soon.

The codebases at hand:

Xj3D - Implementation of the VRML and X3D standards
Aviatrix3D - 3D graphics Scenegraph API - 3D graphics algorithms

Our main focus is on the successor to VRML called X3D.  Its an ISO 
standard 3D graphics format and runtime specification.
VRML had its heyday with at least a $100 pumped into by various 
companies.  Several great products where created which then folded leaving
many users stranded.  I was involved in several negotiations to open 
source this projects, but they all failed for various reasons.

We decided to create an implementation that was open source.  Luckily 
there was a seed of code developed by Sun that was available.  Since I 
was heavily into Java we decided to use that so we could deploy across 
many different platforms.

The 3D graphics market has had one resounding success, games, and many 
many failures.  Our decision to go open source was primarily motivated 
by the belief that in order for the market to succeed it needed at least 
one implementation that would never go away.  It didn't/doesn't have to 
be the only one, but it has to be available forever.  Our biggest 
strength as an ISO standard is the longevity and stability of our 
products.  Many people got burned putting 3D content into propriety 
formats that went away.

 From a business case we have used our knowledge to the space to drive a 
custom application business.  We've gone to lots of conferences and 
presented Xj3D to heaps of people.  After the presentations most of our 
leads come to us.  We also participate on the show floor in lots of 
booths by powering alot of the fancy display devices.  This concept is 
borrowed from Cygnus and the gcc revenue stream they got for custom 
devices.  Basically we have a content standard that runs on lots of 
devices.  People pay us to add one more device. 

The other revenue stream we've been going after is grant money.  
Primarily through sub-contracts on scientific grants.  Ie someone 
proposes to NSF/NIH and has part of the work done by us.  Typically new 
features in the codebase needed for their project.  We have also 
submitted proposals to several SBIR programs through the government.  
This has been less successful,  we've landed about 1 out of 10, but its 
nice when you get them.

Another reason we released Open Source is we found that the current 
users of 3D, mostly scientific users, are very aligned with open 
source.  Given the option of licensing something or helping fund an open 
source project, they favor OS.  Many of them have been burned by 
companies going out of business.  The ISO spec helps them, but an open 
source implementation of that helps even more. 

Hope that helps.