A few people emailed me asking me to elaborate on my claim that employing open source as a promotional tool and community building tool were good ideas. A few also asked if I’d consider it for my upcoming web apps. Well let me answer the second part first: yes we are considering it. Why? Well let me get to that.
You are all probably thinking “WTF why would I give away my IP?” well the concept that you are building a single product in the software as a service market is slightly false. You are building a platform more than anything; a platform that will be the base for your service. The best way to build a community around this is to let others help build the platform or foundation. I am not saying give it away for commercial purposes, i.e. don’t let someone resell your code, but do let them add on to it.
As a developer of a platform your goals should be: make it as good as it can, and get as many people as possible to use it (maybe not that order, but I’ll leave that up to you). When you are strapped for cash, the easiest way to build your startup is using open source, so why not use the open source community to help build your community? If you give the tools away, enough builders will find them useful that you are likely to find at least someone interested.
There is another MAJOR point I failed to cover in the previous post: costs. Free for life accounts as we’ve seen on any number of web services are expensive to run. You generate next to no revenue from them, but they drain computing power. So how do you alleviate that? Let the people who aren’t interested in paying run it on their own hardware and bandwidth. If someone is THAT interested in trying it, but not able or willing to run it themselves, they should be willing to pay a nominal fee for that privilege, it is only fair.
So those reasons hopefully explain a bit more the thought process I’ve been utilizing in analyzing this subject.