Sunday, February 10, 2008

Open Source + Social Web Applications

So, a few weeks ago at work I was tasked with setting up a weblog for our project to use, in which any of the members of our team could post information and assign different categories to the post. The goal of the blog was to replace paper logbooks, allowing easy searching and archival of data (instead of the old "fill up a cabinet" method).

In searching for the best software to use, I came across two products, Movable Type and WordPress. I was initially drawn to Movable Type, but after playing around with it a bit and reading up on the licensing, I chose WordPress. Currently to use MT in an Enterprise environment, you need to purchase a license for the premium version. Now, they have a completely Open Source version that they released somewhat recently, but it seems to be stuck in a perpetual beta state, and I wouldn't feel comfortable using it in our environment because of that.

WordPress is pretty nice though, I was able to quickly and easily integrate it into our LDAP authentication database to enable single-sign-on for all our users, and there are thousands of plug-ins out there that enable all sorts of functionality.

In this case, the more open-source solution won out over the proprietary solution since we don't really have a budget allocated to purchase a commercial software license for blogging software. At the same time though, Movable Type had a few features that WordPress doesn't seem to (at least without finding a plug-in to perform the task).

So, which one is the right business model? Do you release something for free for personal use but then restrict your license so that if you are a commercial entity, you need to purchase a license? (a-la Movable Type, the QT graphical toolkit) Or do you just license your code under the GPL and then sell support contracs to those who want or need them (a-la the MySQL DBMS), hoping that people will pay? I'm not sure... My gut feeling is leaning towards the second, simply because in the end more people will be using your product, meaning hopefully more people will end up paying for support. But at the same time if people don't have to pay, will they?

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