A post on slashdot reminded me of the lack of business sense in many open source programmers.
“I’ve been working on a financial application which I’ve decided to release to the public. I want to make some money from the application, though I certainly don’t expect to become a millionaire. The problem is that I’d like nothing better than to open-source it. There are many aspects of the application that I don’t have time to refine, and other developers could definitely improve upon my work. However, I don’t know how I earn money from something once I’ve made it open source. How have you dealt with trying to turn a reasonable profit on your work while remaining open-sourced?”
Number 1: Why don’t you expect to become a millionaire? Did you sit down and decide that there was no way that your application has can sell 50,000 copies (at $20 a pop)? Do you think the financial professionals can’t afford your product? Did you think about residuals, service plans, program upgrades, additional features. When you have a good piece of software and a business plan, it’s not difficult to make a million dollars from it (especially when the dollar is as weak as it is now). If you don’t want to make a million dollars from a program, you might as well not bother.
Number 2: If you want to make money on a piece of software, you’re going to have to start building features which your clients want/need. Regardless of whether or not you enjoy programming that specific feature. Making your application open source so that someone else might come in and do all the stuff that you think is too boring is not a business plan. To make money you’re also going to need to create a website, write a manual, create marketing material, and a lot of other boring stuff.
To sum it up, with your software development attitude you aren’t going to make any money off your product, regardless of its open source nature. You might as well open source it and then put up a donations button which gets you a Latte a day (if you’re lucky).
So, is it possible to make money from open source software? Absolutely. But because I have to run in to work telling you how will have to wait