Wordle from Open Source Book Picture

One notion of open source software that often surprises people not familiar with it or its culture, particularly in business settings, is to make the source code completely available for free.

Open sourcing everything may not be a familiar conversation at your company, but it is a good conversation to have.  It’s always a fascinating conversation to watch.  It’s usually an interesting mix of people and  their personalities combined with varying degrees, usually at the extremes, of idealism versus pragmatism.

Here are some of the different arguments I’ve heard.  I don’t believe any of these are the “one true way” and as is often the case, the reasons for or against may not be clear cut.

  • We are obligated by our core values to open source everything
  • We must hold something back that we can charge for or we won’t able to stay in business
  • Our business isn’t the code, it’s the services we provide
  • The “Community” expects us to open source everything and if we don’t someone will complain and that will make us look bad
  • We will open source the code that people can really use
  • We will open source the code that people can contribute to and help make better

What kind of criteria do you use to determine whether or not to open source code?  Have you ever regretted open sourcing everything?

Photo by nengard