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.

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