Open Source

Open Core – It’s All About the Brand

Jessica Thornsby

Bloggers debate whether Open Core deliberately misleads the customer.

Dave Neary is the latest in the string of bloggers to have his say on the Open Core debate – and, in his view, it’s all about marketing.

As a brand, open source has many positive connotations: the freedom to alter the software as you see fit; the freedom to test software before committing to use it; the freedom to switch suppliers; and access to the community that grows organically around successful open source ventures. The problem is that these positives do not apply to Open Core – but there is potential to confuse open source for Open Core, especially amongst customers who are not overly familiar with the concept of open source.

“Open Core for me means you provide a free software product, improve it, and don’t release the improvements under the free software license……The features you see advertised on the project’s website are not available to you along with software freedom,” he says. This view is backed up by the Open Source Initiative, who recently posted their thoughts on Open Core. Among these points, was that Open Core vendors who imply – through marketing, or other means – that largely proprietary software is open source “are engaging in deception.”

MySQL creator Monty Widenius has also commented on the potential for the Open Core tag to confuse, citing that just because some of your product is released under an open license, does not make you an open source, or Open Core, company, as even some of Microsoft’s code is available as open source. And, if even Microsoft could potentially market themselves as an open source, or Open Core, company, then it is easy to see how the general customer could get confused by an Open Core marketing strategy.

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