Saturday, March 19, 2005

Tension in Open Source Land - Etomite Discontinued

Many Open Source (or Free Software) advocates paint a rosy picture of community developed software. The idea of hundreds of developers around the world, devoting their time free to develop outstanding software is a noble one. And one that sometimes pays off. Some of the OSS/FS I've seen has been pretty darned good, and you can't beat the price! For example, I'm using WIX for building installation programs for example - it's just plain better than any other tool I've found for developng the relatively simple MSIs I need.

But is this rosy picture a true reflection of what actually happens in all open source projects? Does a "great idea" suddenly create a vibrant and giving community from which everyone benefits? And what happens when the developers of an open source project want to take it to the next level and actually want to make some money out of their labour? For at least one answer, take a look at the post from Alex announcing that Etomite (an open source content management project) is being discontinued

I've not used Etomite personally, but my good MVP buddy Scott Korman (he of fame) does. Scott was planning on using it for a new community venture - then out of the blue came the news that the project was being discontinued. It was a blow to Scott, since Etmoite was a good tool for his requirements. We were both struck by some of the observations made by Alex about his reasons for discontinuing the project.

Alex certainly is angry. His efforts have resulted in an almost derisory level of contrubutions (US$300) and he's also seen folks just plain rip off his code. I suppose the final insult is finding his own forums being used to slag him off. While the picture painted by Alex is not entirely negative, it must make some folks wonder if it's all worth it. Some parts of the community may dislike big software vendors, it's almost fashionable to hate Microsoft. But at least you know where you stand with them.