Open source software is innovating quite effectively with the Software as a Service business model.
Facebook is a perfect example of this. Facebook is leveraging open source technology to sell its service, which is an advertising revenue generating system.
In return, Facebook pushes code back into the open source sphere, while it benefits from the work of open source developers such those at PHP and Apache.
And as cloud computing continues to gain traction, the SaaS business model will become even more attractive and profitable. The back and forth between companies and open source will then feed one another – at times literally.
But as ZDNet’s Dana Blankenhorn points out that there’s a copyright issue that needs to be solved.
SaaS lives in what you might call a copyleft loophole. It’s a loophole the Affero license was designed to close. Google has explicitly rejected Affero, preferring the Apache licenses. Twitter and Facebook don’t use Affero, either.
When your contribution to a project is outsized to that of the community, as Google’s usually is, I think this is appropriate. Some pigs really are more equal than others, and if you’re doing 98% of the work (or more) you deserve that extra protection.
But what about smaller projects? What about start-ups? Riding open source innovation, when your contributions to it are scant, is not a good deal for your fellow contributors.