Business Source (A software license with some Open Source aspects)

A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed on ZDNET about how to create successful software company in todays world.

I assume that because the original article also mentioned my other project, MariaDB, some people jumped to the wrong conclusion about my intentions or what I was trying to achieve.

For those that want to know more about Business Source, there is now an academic article in TIM (Technology Innovation Management Review) that one can read. The article is written by Linus Nyman and me.

To clarify some misunderstandings, here is a short list of what the Business Source license is all about:
  • Business Source is not an Open Source license. It's a commercial software license that offers the users many of the benefits of an Open Source license.
  • Business Source means that all source code is available from day one and that most (but not all) users can use it any way for free. After a time delay the software becomes Open Source.
  • Business Source was never intended for the MariaDB server. MariaDB is GPL and will always be that. I could not change the license for the MariaDB server even if I wanted to (and I never wanted to make MySQL or MariaDB closed source or Open core).
  • I truly belive that Open Source is a better way to develop software. However as an entrepreneur I recognize that it's very hard to create a software development company around Open Source. Dual licenses works for some cases (especially for infrastructure and embeddable software like MySQL), but doesn't work for a lot of software. It's also very hard to fund development with services (support, development, consulting...) as the profit from these (typically 30%) are not enough to maintain a development organization in many cases.
  • For a software company that wants to do development and compete with closed source companies on similar economic terms, Business Source offers a viable alternative to closed source or open core. For a user of the software, Business Source is always better than Open Core as Open Core doesn't offer for it's user ANY of the advantages of Open Source.
  • While searching for companies that my investment company, Open Ocean Capital, can invest into, I have been talking with a lot of entrepreneurs about how to make money on their software. In some cases where the entrepreneurs would like to release their software as Open Source but don't know how to make enough money to support development, I have told them to take a look at Business Source. As an Open Source/Free Software advocate it feels a bit bad to have to turn away some companies from Open Source, but I think that in the long run it's better that the companies succeed and produces good software that is accessible to anyone under reasonable terms. Compared to other license models, at least with Business Source the software will eventually become Open Source.
The article should hopefully explain any other questions you have about Business Source. If not, feel free to comment on this blog and I will do my best to clarify things.

By the way, I am not totally happy with the term "Business Source" as there is already a company that uses this name. Business Source (or Source for Business) is however the best term I have come up with for this license so far. If you have a better suggestion for the name, please write me a comment!