Open Source Frameworks: WaveMaker, an interview with Chris Keene

The Open Source Think Tank has been a great opportunity to meet in person many open source CEO, and I just managed to run an email interview with one of them: Chris Keene, CEO of WaveMaker.

WaveMaker, providing a web application development platform consisting of a visual AJAX component and a Java one, started life as a partly open source company building software for grid computing. In 2007 the company with the name ActiveGrid moved on to building a visual development platform in Python, finally under the NewWaveMaker brand.

Chris Keene

Chris Keene by twoeggs

Chris, was AcriveGrid open source from the beginning?

ActiveGrid was only partly open source because we had not fully embraced publishing our source code and involving the community in the development process. This meant that we had all the headaches of open source – people wanting everything for free – with none of the benefits of a committed community.

What happened next?

I joined ActiveGrid in early 2007 and made two immediate decisions: first, to move from Python to Java and second, to become a real open source company. We needed to move to Java in order to get corporate adoption and also because we found that the Java community had many robust components like Spring and Hibernate that could accelerate our development efforts.

Why did you need to move to open source?

We needed to move to open source because we lacked the enormous marketing and sales budget to sell our software directly to the enterprise. Instead, we needed to leverage word of mouth in the open source community to help us sneak into corporations through the back door of open source.

I understand going open source basically was part of your marketing strategy.

Did you benefit from the move?

In December 2007, we renamed the company WaveMaker. In February, 2008, we announced our new WaveMaker product and our support for the AGPL license.

Within two days of announcing our open source release, our download volumes skyrocketed by a factor of 20, from 50 downloads a day to over 1,000 downloads a day. At the same time, the number of registered users and daily posting volumes in our community at jumped by similar amounts.

These results are pretty impressive, I admit. Lurking around your forums it looks like if answers usually come from WaveMaker’s employees, users seem to have a pretty parasitic approach to the “community” space. Developers following the motto “we don’t use software that costs money here“are probably happy with WaveMaker now, but how to turn downloads into profits is a different problem.

Chris, how do you profit from your product?

WaveMaker is available under a dual license: AGPL for open source projects, and a commercial license for projects which need support or enterprise security features.

WaveMaker website reports about some customers and also about alliances, that is both useful for potential customers and partners, but is lacking of information about the differences between the open source and the proprietary version.

If having a business model around the free software is fundamental, to let people know how your business works and how they can benefit is also important.

About WaveMaker.
WaveMaker is an open source, visual development platform for building Web 2.0 applications. WaveMaker applications are based on standard Java and Javascript and leverage other open source components such as Spring, Hibernate and Dojo.

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