Saturday, December 30, 2006

Franchising, open source, and "methods of doing business"

After reading Asay's post on this subject, I think this is a great idea, and very pertinent to things we're doing now at SourceForge. I don't think there's an open-source company out there making this their primary business model. Dual-License, support, merchandising, patronage .... all of these seem to have at least 1 exemplary business - maybe MySQL, Red Hat, Firefox, and Eclipse respectively?

As he says, this is somewhat present in some of the various open-source certification programs out there, and the single comment on the post asks if franchising is "a mere 'Certification program' that entitles a company to provide professional suport/developemnt of a product/service with the support of other vendor/provider. Is my assumption correct?" I think this assumption is only partially correct.

Franchising is a little bit more - "a method of doing business wherein a franchisor licenses trademarks and tried and proven methods of doing business to a franchisee in exchange for a recurring payment, and usually a percentage piece of gross sales or gross profits as well as the annual fees" according to Wikipedia. (emphasis mine) Most (all?) existing open source certification programs are only about tried and proven technical skills. One of the biggest lessons the open source software industry is teaching is that "methods of doing business" are much harder, more important, and more valuable to get right, in terms of making money.

I do think there's room in the community for some big franchising companies, and I think they could really help the uptake and adoption of open source software in many markets. However, I don't think "franchising" is the only method which can inject those "tried and proven methods of doing business" into the open source software community.

IMHO, this - to provide tried and proven methods of doing business to the open source community - is and should be the mission of SourceForge Marketplace. In our case, we cannot (and should not) "license" the methods, but rather we should provide all the tools necessary for anyone, from a single person to an enterprise, to easily implement any methods they want. If we can do this, it will benefit me, SourceForge, and the open source community.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Reports of the death of the Long Tail have been greatly exxagerated.

People sure are making a stink about this post (with a questionable set of data, IMO) which purports to demonstrate that the Long Tail of web traffic is actually shrinking. Nick Carr has an excellent response explaining why the Long Tail is not shrinking, but rather, the economic value of the Long Tail is merely concentrating. This all falls within the scope of Anderson's previously asserted effects of the rise of the Long Tail - content aggregators will become (apparently ARE) the biggest winners in the phenomenon.

I'd like to expand just a bit on his explanation of how Myspace & Facebook are actually Long Tail websites - i.e., they aggregate the Long Tail of millions of personal mini-websites.

It should also be noted that Google, Yahoo, eBay, and craigslist are other Long Tail websites. Google and Yahoo are built on the long tail of search words (and subsequently related ads!), while eBay and craigslist aggregate the Long Tail of products for sale online.

So, of the top 9 sites (We all know is not really in the top 10, right?), 6 are Long Tail sites? Well, even can be labeled as a Long Tail website, considering that their real list of top 10 searches are for those other Long Tail sites.

That leaves only and as non-Long Tail sites in the top 10, right? Without the search data from those sites, it's hard to know for sure, but they could likely be similar to AOL - a mere entry point to the other Long Tail kings. Additionally, I've long suspected sneaks onto the tops of these lists merely for all the visits coming from IE browser users that haven't changed their default home page.

The Long Tail is NOT shrinking on the web. It's growing and the winners are exactly who was predicted - big-time aggregators.