Open Source Business Models: about Joomla going GPL 100%

Joomla! announced its committment to fully compliance with the GNU GPL license, a very important step and definitely not an easy decision to take. Joomla!, one of the most popular Open Source CMS platform in fact, is based on the Voluntary Production Model, but it is different from any other projects.

Freedom Freedom, by cattycamehome

As I recently happened to know from Amy Stephen, Mambo contributors – and hence later Joomla! contributors as well – were allowed to release proprietary “extensions”, a term used to mean anything you can “add on”. A pretty peculiar characteristic of Joomla! project indeed, and also not an easy issue to address now, as results from the Joomla announcement:

It’s a long, slow road.We’re not going to make any sudden moves because we know that a lot of people are relying on us to maintain some stability and meet expectations. We are very much aware that a lot of people make their living around Joomla!, and we are sensitive to producing sudden disruptions in livelihoods [..].

We will provide facts as soon as we have them. If we seem too silent, it’s because we don’t want to speak until we can do so clearly and confidently. And you’ll have plenty of notice before any large changes get made.

Apparently it is great time to share some ideas about possible directions:

  • Joomla! marketplace: making available all GPL extensions through a vertical marketplace could bring authors consulting opportunities, compensating for fewer deals;
  • Joomla! Enterprises Association: IT firms and individual developers involved with Joomla! could start a business partner network;
  • Re-coding proprietary extensions: Favoured or Popular proprietary extensions could eventually be re-coded allocating funds raised by OpenSourceMatters, if feasible.

Contributors moving from a proprietary licensing scheme to a pure GPL might sell less copies, is a matter of fact. But is their business all about selling proprietary extensions? If this is not the case a vertical marketplace would cover other business areas.

Enterprise Association.
Joomla!, as many other Open Source projects, is not a Corporate Actor. As results also from Observatory of European SMBs – see “High Tech SMEs in Europe” – the lack of a coordinator is a known critical success factor:

For high-tech SMEs (SMB) networks are almost a necessity to perform innovation projects and tap the required information and know-how to conduct business. Networks make possible the sharing of costs as well as risk sharing and contribute to business success.[..]
The following barriers to networking, specific to smaller high-tech firms, can be identified: (i) Often there is a lack of a ‘co-ordinator’, which might be an agency or a larger leading firm. (ii) Small firms, in contrast to large ones, have a short-term perspective and expect quick and concrete results. [..] To reduce efforts co-operation is kept simple and built with only very few partners. (iii) It is difficult to find a balance between the privacy of information and the necessary knowledge sharing.

Zope Europe Association, now known as ZEA Partners, is a good example of how a business partner network might work, delivering bigger projects and representing an ‘institutional interlocutor’. Paul Everitt did a very good job with it, indeed.

Recoding proprietary extensions.
I guess that only a fraction of Joomla! Extensions are really important to the majority of users and customers. If my assumptions are right, I believe that at the end of the day you might consider recoding only them, asking users to help you prioritizing them.

A final suggestion about the FAQ:

What is the difference between “commercial” and “proprietary”?

Commercial software means that there is some sort of commercial activity surrounding that software. It could be a business that develops it and charges money for distribution, support, documentation, customization, etc. Commercial software is not necessarily proprietary software and proprietary software is not necessarily commercial software. Proprietary software means that you do not have the right to copy, modify, and redistribute that software.

I would suggest to add that commercial means also something oriented toward profit, and in this respect Commercial Open Source represents a chance to share costs and risks among consumers as well. And yes, a Joomla! Collaborative initiatives might also be a viable option!

Long life to Joomla, my personal CMS platform of choice!

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