open source to multiple versions

If you aren’t familiar, activeCollab has been an open source alternative to Basecamp.

I just saw the post “Status update followup” on the activeCollab blog and it sounds like this project is going the same way many others have — to commercial product with a reduced-functionality open source version.

In June, 2006 when the activeCollab blog started, the first post talked about why activeCollab was free. The list included:

3. Making money. I find it normal to expect something in return for your work. activeCollab will always be free but there will be commercial support as soon as we hit 1.0 for people who need a little more that community support, you can hire me to customize activeCollab to fit your needs or help you integrate it with system you are already running on your server. Or you can just see what I can do and hire me for some project not related with activeCollab.

From what I see in the “Status update followup” there are 2 key changes:

2. Core development will be done by newly founded company while community will be able to contribute through plugins and tools that use API

3. License will change and some of the advanced features will be available only in commercial version (read on for details)

I can only guess as to why the changs were needed. There are 2 that come to mind immediately: a. it’s tough to earn enough money developing for free; b. you can’t build the consistency and predictable development cycle you need to sustain a product in an all volunteer community.

It’s a shame to see it happen. I can’t fault the developer for the change. I just wish I knew how to build a successful open source model that can thrive long term.

-k

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4 Responses to open source to multiple versions

  1. Good luck to them! I’ve been testing activeCollab for my web team at Magnum Photos – it’s a great alternative to Basecamp – but only because it’s free. The project will benefit from ‘pro and more commercial services’ – but it must evolve quickly for clients to choose this tool over and above Basecamp.

  2. Good luck to them! I’ve been testing activeCollab for my web team at Magnum Photos – it’s a great alternative to Basecamp – but only because it’s free. The project will benefit from ‘pro and more commercial services’ – but it must evolve quickly for clients to choose this tool over and above Basecamp.

  3. Hey Kevin,

    Just thought i’d let you know that about a month after that announcement, i started the RailsCollab project (http://rubyforge.org/projects/railscollab/) which is basically a rewrite of ActiveCollab in Ruby using the Ruby on Rails framework. It currently implements most of the base functionality (minus things such as the administration section and proper security checks), and best of all, is still open source.

    Sadly though, not a lot of people seem to be interested in it (yet), so i’m pretty much on my own updating it when i can. At least the guy who writ ActiveCollab chose to mirror his code closely on the Ruby on Rails framework, otherwise i probably wouldn’t have even bothered undertaking this rather tedious effort.

    With regard to successfull open source models, the most common one seems to be the “pay us if you want us to make sure it works for you, otherwise figure it out yourself” model.

  4. Hey Kevin,

    Just thought i’d let you know that about a month after that announcement, i started the RailsCollab project (http://rubyforge.org/projects/railscollab/) which is basically a rewrite of ActiveCollab in Ruby using the Ruby on Rails framework. It currently implements most of the base functionality (minus things such as the administration section and proper security checks), and best of all, is still open source.

    Sadly though, not a lot of people seem to be interested in it (yet), so i’m pretty much on my own updating it when i can. At least the guy who writ ActiveCollab chose to mirror his code closely on the Ruby on Rails framework, otherwise i probably wouldn’t have even bothered undertaking this rather tedious effort.

    With regard to successfull open source models, the most common one seems to be the “pay us if you want us to make sure it works for you, otherwise figure it out yourself” model.

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