Dr. Z2A

making money off of open source

22 posts in this topic

I've heard of people making money giving tech support for open source software and such, but from what I've observed it is very hard to actually earn any money off of creating the actual software itself. There may be a handful of guys who are hired by companies that use certain OSS apps to develop them, but it seems that there are very few of those people. I've been using linux for a while and I think I've payed in total around 30 bucks for one closed source linux application, so no one in OSS has made any money off of me using their software to my knowledge. Does anyone know of a practical way to make a good amount of money off of open source software? Have I just missed something all this time or are you really kind of screwed if you want to make any money off of OSS?

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There's nothing that prevents you from selling your software. Open Source doesn't always mean free as in beer. Support is another way, but probably only really profitable for software in which businesses will need the support. You're right, it is a little difficult to make money selling OSS.

There are other ways to make money though. Servers need admins, admins get paid. Networks need techs, techs get paid. Just because someone is running OSS, it doesn't mean all the normal work surrounding the software doesn't need to get done. There are plenty of people who make money because of OSS, just not that many make money selling or supporting their own software.

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There is money to be made in the open source world but a great deal of companies that do make a living from OSS, do so by selling support contracts. I see that best way to make money is to package it with hardware such as what HP does with thin clients and other products or on a smaller scale Trixbox with their Asterisk hardware.

I think if your looking to make money, take an existing network related product like a squid web proxy cache, make managing it idiot proof , then stick it in a unbranded 1U rack mountable case and then just put your own logo on it.

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There's a lot of money to be made with OSS.

There's support work, administration, marketing, etc. just like with closed-source software. Plus there's nothing in the GPL that says companies can't pay money to a developer who works on OSS, and nothing saying you have to distribute the software. If you develop a program for Linux that's intended for a company's in-house use and is not to be distributed, then the origin of the source code is not even an issue.

The GPL is only an issue if you intend to sell or otherwise distribute the software.

Edited by MyNameIsURL
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when I was young, I don't know how but I sold apache for 50 bucks :)

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when I was young, I don't know how but I sold apache for 50 bucks :)

Not all of us are the godlike salesman that you are. But that brings up a good point, Linux distros are sold on Ebay for high prices. Yes, only stupid people buy them, but hey, all you put into it was a burned CD, right? Not exactly ethical, and if you're going down the unethical road, there's much better ways to make money than selling OSS.

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There's nothing morally, ethically or legally wrong with packaging your own distro and selling it. Most distros are geared towards specific use purposes, and if you can identify a niche market underserved by Linux, you know your stuff (like which packages could best be applied to create the Linux solution) and can get together the right developers and marketing people, you can make money.

I can only imagine the insane amount of work that would go into creating a Linux distro, and it would most likely take a *lot* more work to make it really profitable. But imagine the satisfaction you'd get from promoting your very own distro with a name of your own choosing and everything, that actually helps users discover new functionality for Linux...

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when I was young, I don't know how but I sold apache for 50 bucks :)

Not all of us are the godlike salesman that you are. But that brings up a good point, Linux distros are sold on Ebay for high prices. Yes, only stupid people buy them, but hey, all you put into it was a burned CD, right? Not exactly ethical, and if you're going down the unethical road, there's much better ways to make money than selling OSS.

I wish I was a "godlike salesman" even to this day I don't know how I sold it, if I even did. It was to my teacher, he was bitching one day about is windows webserver or something. I told him about apache and brought it in the nexted on my thumbdrive. I help him set it up just a little on the school computer, he was using and he handed my 50 bucks and said thanks. It's didn't even cost me a blink CD. :P

school was awesome for selling things from emulators/roms, random software, movies, music, and girls gone wild to the special educational kids. :P

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So it was a "consulting fee." You didn't explicitly sell him the software. That's well within the bounds of the GPL.

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There's nothing morally, ethically or legally wrong with packaging your own distro and selling it. Most distros are geared towards specific use purposes, and if you can identify a niche market underserved by Linux, you know your stuff (like which packages could best be applied to create the Linux solution) and can get together the right developers and marketing people, you can make money.

Sure, but the ones I've seen on ebay outright lie in the descriptions. They slap their own logo on some other distro, claim it'll solve all your problems, run 10 times faster than Windows and never ever breaks. That's the unethical part..

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There is money to be made in the open source world but a great deal of companies that do make a living from OSS, do so by selling support contracts. I see that best way to make money is to package it with hardware such as what HP does with thin clients and other products or on a smaller scale Trixbox with their Asterisk hardware.

I think if your looking to make money, take an existing network related product like a squid web proxy cache, make managing it idiot proof , then stick it in a unbranded 1U rack mountable case and then just put your own logo on it.

hey ! not every one needs to know about THAT !

I gotta eat man !

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There is money to be made in the open source world but a great deal of companies that do make a living from OSS, do so by selling support contracts. I see that best way to make money is to package it with hardware such as what HP does with thin clients and other products or on a smaller scale Trixbox with their Asterisk hardware.

I think if your looking to make money, take an existing network related product like a squid web proxy cache, make managing it idiot proof , then stick it in a unbranded 1U rack mountable case and then just put your own logo on it.

hey ! not every one needs to know about THAT !

I gotta eat man !

LOL, I put myself through the latter years of university by doing sys-admin jobs. There were are bunch of times when I could have saved companies money by simply reusing old hardware and some open source software, but companies like pre-boxed solutions supported by a company. It’s usually easier convincing them to spend money then trust you.

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I'm actually thinking of making an open source pitch to my school district, so maybe making a bit of money off of it wouldn't be that bad. Could I ethically/legally sell them a tester version of Edubuntu?

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I'm actually thinking of making an open source pitch to my school district, so maybe making a bit of money off of it wouldn't be that bad. Could I ethically/legally sell them a tester version of Edubuntu?

Sure you can. There's nothing ethically or legally wrong with charging for the distribution of free software. Personally I still think you have a moral responsibility to tell them that they may also get the software free of charge by downloading it themselves. I believe a better idea is to charge for service/support.

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I'm actually thinking of making an open source pitch to my school district, so maybe making a bit of money off of it wouldn't be that bad. Could I ethically/legally sell them a tester version of Edubuntu?

Sure you can. There's nothing ethically or legally wrong with charging for the distribution of free software. Personally I still think you have a moral responsibility to tell them that they may also get the software free of charge by downloading it themselves. I believe a better idea is to charge for service/support.

Flippin' sweet!

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Assuming it's a public school, good luck with that. The school system most likely wont allow it, you'd have to make the pitch to them rather than your school.

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Well, like many mentioned there's:

-Sysadmin stuff (which includes Infrastructure Architecture, LAMP coding, etc...)

-Web Dev/Designer stuff (web development using OSS tools)

-Hardware repackaging (Seems to be working well with Asterisk and Web Proxy gear... tho one market I see that can use some work is in the arena of products to go against Cisco based hardware like Quagga/Zebra/Freeco)

Then there's developing applications that work with OSS software that is closed source like:

-G729 codec (digium sells a license tho there is a way to use Intel's version of the drivers for free)

-OSS drivers (like the ones from www.opensound.com)

-Products like Oracle (After all, GNU/Linux is just the operating system)

Many commercial *nix shops like SGI, Sun and DEC have adopted the open source model just so the technology they built and invested in doesn't become obsoleted because of fiscal concerns. A great example is the OpenVMS movement. It's a well built operating system, still used in many vertical applications and under the OpenVMS hobbyist license, you can legally run the software along with their compilers, network stacks, graphic environments, etc... which would buy you time to develop the next killer application for marketing on that platform.

Most of us however just settle on being system admins unless we develop code for a living. Then as devs we have to justify whether or not to make it OSS or not. But mainly that has to do with the application being developed and who's money is being used to develop it. For instance, in many shops, if you have a nice library of scripts and code you've written to make tasks easier or do special things, you're paid for that code by way of a paycheck. But then if it's something that would really benefit the large arena, then you should approach your management to see if they'll allow the code to be released. Educational institutions usually don't mind unless it can bring them extra income or attract corporate sponsors (like where's all the code for the Darpa challenge? :) ) and commercial entities usually don't.

But that said, there's no reason you can't develop code that mimics those tasks "in parallel" to your development at work. As long as you can clearly show that code isn't being copied verbatim from one to another or is radically a different development path for different purposes, I don't really see the legal issue. There's a developer for Second Life that is working on embedding a web browser into the client but as he's deving it for a commercial company, he's releaseing a parallel package with just the 3d browser... http://ubrowser.com/

That said, I'm sure Linus Torvalds doesn't have to work a day job anymore doing public speaking appearances or endorsements. There's yet another way of making money on open source. :-)

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Using a permissive license, like the BSD license... yes (Apple). Selling a service... yea (red hat), dual-licensing... maybe, selling GPL software... maybe, if you are a cunning businessman.

I'm personally not a fan of it, i liked the good ol' days when FOSS was subersive and anticorporate <_<

NOTE: Decieving your school by selling them a free product, w/o telling them will likely end poorly and build a bad image for the FOSS community.

Edited by slacker
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when I was young, I don't know how but I sold apache for 50 bucks :)

Not all of us are the godlike salesman that you are. But that brings up a good point, Linux distros are sold on Ebay for high prices. Yes, only stupid people buy them, but hey, all you put into it was a burned CD, right? Not exactly ethical, and if you're going down the unethical road, there's much better ways to make money than selling OSS.

I see nothing wrong or unethical about burning a distro to a CD and selling it on a site such as eBay or osdisc.com. Just as long as the prices aren't too outrageous. After all, some people that may want to try Linux but may still be stuck on dial up because they live in an area where broadband is unavailable. It would take them days to download a 650MB iso, not to mention tie up the phone line for that period of time. But, I guess in a way that could be considered a service.

Edited by eldiablo
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Many commercial *nix shops like SGI, Sun and DEC have adopted the open source model just so the technology they built and invested in doesn't become obsoleted because of fiscal concerns. A great example is the OpenVMS movement.

OpenVMS is closed source.

anyway, the best thing I have read on this subject:

Yes, so if you distribute bespoke software used to manage your business to your employees, any one of them can demand a copy of the source code, and then go use any code you've funded the development of to compete against you.

It would be crazy for the management of any business developing valuable bespoke software to allow the inclusion of any existing code licensed under the GPL. If, on the other hand, BSD-licensed code is used as a foundation, anyone can still use that original software to compete against you, but can't use your contributions unless you allow them to.

The GPL is mostly useful for cloning/reimplementing commodity software using ideas that have already been widely developed. For new ideas that need further development (which requires funding), a BSD licence is much better, because it allows commercial developers to add value without losing control of it.

If you look at what companies like IBM and SGI have contributed to Linux, for example, it's generally old software that they originally developed to add value to their Unix systems, which were heavily based on BSD-/MIT-licensed code, including BSD, Mach and the X Window System. The key ideas which made their added software valuable are now commonplace, so it's no great loss to dump them into Linux: eg journalling added value in the early 1990s, when only high-end systems like Unix and Windows NT offered it, but it's been a standard feature in mainstream versions of Windows since Windows 2000 (released in 1999), and is a standard feature on virtually every PC sold today (and a standard feature on every Windows PC sold today).

In contrast to the dumping of old code/ideas into GPL-licensed software like Linux, the BSD-/MIT-licensed code developed in the 1980s (including BSD TCP/IP sockets, the X Window System and Mach) added a tremendous amount of value to the existing systems of the day, and the BSD/MIT licence allowed it to be folded into them and commercialised, with sockets spreading to nearly all systems, including Unix and Windows, whilst X became the standard GUI on most Unix-derived systems, as well as some others (eg VMS). The same applies to a lesser extent to OpenSSH in the '90s: secure replacements for the old BSD remote tools were badly needed, and the BSD licence means OpenSSH can be integrated into commercial systems without giving up control of the code to those systems.

Importantly, even though it can be attractive to re-license old proprietary code under the GPL, it's better for the advance of software generally to re-licence it under a BSD-style licence, so that it can be used with ground-breaking new software. However, to the extent that such software could threaten the owners of the old code, it's understandable that self-interested corporations would prefer to prevent anyone else adding value to their old code.

Ultimately, companies like IBM have based their Linux strategies on separating the high-value from the low-value software. The low-value software is distributed under the GPL in order to create a standard base layer without much innovation in the way of new features (ie just enough to be competitive with non-GPL alternatives). The high-value software is distributed under a proprietary licence, with very high licensing fees.

Novell's strategy is less clear, but probably amounts to more or less the same thing: provide a low-cost, low-value commodity layer licensed under the GPL, then make sure the innovation goes into higher-level layers, which are separate packages (so not bound by the GPL) licensed under proprietary licences, with high licensing fees.

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Enough said,

For ways of making money out of Free Software, refer to Free Software Foundation's page about selling it.

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/selling.html

All master men judge men by what they are not what they seem to be; not by their reputation and their fame.

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