When I worked at Stanford, I was able to watch, firsthand, the open source project that has since become Sakai. This is a multi-university, complex project to develop a learning management system designed for universities, by universities. This would be in comparison to Blackboard, which is owned by a company and run like one at times.
The idea all along was to offer the application as open source once it was all “done.” However, the team ran into a number of obstacles, and that’s just what I saw myself. For instance, the type of back-end database. Ours was Oracle, but you can’t really launch an open source product that relies on Oracle. So a mySQL version had to be built.
This article is different – it’s about offering an open source project and then building a business model around it that will actually make money. But the truth, and I think anyone that has tried to actually maintain a business around an open source project will second this, is that it’s not easy to build around such offerings. At some point the effort to continue development overwhelms the benefit of the project and the revenue stream cannot sustain the costs.
I’m still a big fan of open source products. But I don’t see myself developing an open source business.