How Funambol Walks the Commercial Open Source Rope

Funambol just announced the availability of Funambol v8, a redesigned AJAX version of the MyFUNAMBOL web portal, a proprietary product tailored for carriers based on their open source piece of software.

The differences between Funambol community and carriers’ editions is key to understand Funambol business model. Knowing the importance of external contributions I asked Stefano Maffulli, Funambol Community Manager, to tell me about how  he passed the message to the Funambol community.

Stefano wrote a message on MyFunambol Forum explaining the change in the myFUNAMBOL use policy.

After many weeks spent discussing how to better serve the community without disrupting Funambol sales, the company decided to keep offering unlimited use of myFUNAMBOL to existing users and community contributors. New users that signup later will have free access to myFUNAMBOL for 90 days.

Despite myFUNAMBOL existing users won’t be subject to the 90 days limitations, new ones are required either to participate or to stop using it after 90 days, no chance to upgrade, as he clearly explained:

The decision to limit new users to 90 days was not easy, but walking a tightrope is not always easy, sometimes you need to pull in the  direction you do not like, to avoid falling. This time we had to move in this direction to avoid the uneasy situation of Funambol offering a free service that is better and newer than the one offered by our paying customers (who charge their users). Other options were to shut it down completely or offer a feature-limited version. Both are unacceptable,  though, because myFUNAMBOL is an important test bed for the company and we want to show our best stuff. Considering the constraints, having the opportunity to test sync and push services for 90 days is a good compromise. We are not planning to offer a pay option at the end of the 90 days. myFUNAMBOL is a demo of the Funambol Carrier Edition, we have no plans at the moment to offer it directly to consumers.

In any case, I as Community Manager can enable unlimited use of  myFUNAMBOL for active community members: anybody that contributes code, helps us identify bugs, fix them, test phones, answer community requests in the various forums and other activities, etc., will be rewarded with an unlimited myFUNAMBOL account. myFUNAMBOL is also meant to be a contribution of Funambol to our active community, so if you are active you can be assured to have an unlimited account.

Not an easy choice to make, I must admit. Open source core is neither good or bad, and “walking the open source rope” requires waiving your arms as needed to keep your balance between community and business interests. Funambol goes more and more in the Mobile SaaS direction, and continuously reassess its strategy to make its community, customers (carriers) and end-users happy.