Open charter companies and relicensing

last updated: Oct 20, 2023

The whole thing is worth reading, but this is the most important bit to me:

It’s years in the past now, but I worked at Mapbox, a company that did later something like what HashiCorp, Elastic, and Redis did: it relicensed a major project from a fully open source license to a merely source-available one with additional restrictions. Frankly, I thought this was a good idea and still do. Even though I believed so strongly in the values of open source for so long, had written about it, and indignantly pushed to open source more stuff, by the time that Mapbox changed the license that vision had been polluted by reality. Mapbox was pouring time and energy into hard technical problems in hopes that people would pay for its services, and instead, the technology was being constantly white-labeled and re-hosted by hyperscalers and larger competitors. It was disheartening, and unsustainable, to be the unpaid R&D department for other companies.

So that’s kind of where I stood, and still stand on the issue: the presence of hyperscalers and cloud providers who can host your application with systematically lower costs on their side changes the whole equation of SaaS-based open source software. It’s really hard to compete when your competitors can run your software, without paying for its development, and with vastly cheaper servers and bandwidth.

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