September 13, 2018

Has anyone open sourced part of your company's software?

We are considering OS part of our software to the engineering community. The goal is to increase early adoption of the product, increase awareness, and help others build their apps faster.

Few questions:

  1. How do you choose which parts to OS?

  2. After making it available github, and writing a blog post on Medium, how do you encourage users to try it out?

  3. Has this worked for you? If so, can you share how you approached the problem?

If you'd like to provide advice relevant to our product, here's the link: https://rhizata.com/


  1. 3

    I'm working on a fully open source SaaS, a project management tool (https://getartemis.app) that would have some features that I see lacking in other tools, such as optionally providing a GUI for plaintext, so you could write your to do list (and other notes/tasks/epics etc) in Markdown or Org-mode, git commit/push it, then it shows up in the GUI.

    I think most people don't open source their entire SaaS because they think competitors will just take their code and copy it, but the truth is no one actually cares about your product, they only care whether it's useful enough to them to pay money for. Moreover, the vast, vast majority of people will not download and set up their own version of the tool, they want you to do it for them, as long as the price matches what they're getting. There are companies like www.Sentry.io that have fully open sourced their product [1] yet they still make money.

    [1] https://github.com/getsentry/sentry (Apache 2.0 License as well, which means that one could copy the code directly and sell it and not even need to make any further changes open source, unlike in some other licenses such as GPL)

    1. 3

      Hey Satvik, looks like we had a somewhat similar idea :) I've fully open sourced BrisaBoards.com, more of an organizer with some productivity/pjm tools.

      I would love to provide a SaaS version, but I'd be pretty happy if anyone used it at all, so I'm not worried about people stealing code.

    2. 2

      Good example, Satvik.

      Are you going to open source your PM tool because you plan to, someday, release a paid/hosted version?

      1. 1

        Yeah the paid version would basically be the hosted version as a SaaS, people/companies can set up their own if they're more concerned about privacy and other issues, or even pay for an on premise version that I would manage for them.

  2. 2

    @datalab rhizata looks like an awesome product! I'd be interested in chatting with you and learning more about your considerations to open-source. My company DevFlight got accepted into YC's Startup School to help OSS maintainers access cloud marketplaces.

    Complete sidenote here but your landing page/site design is gorgeous. Was it developed in-house?

  3. 1

    Our whole product is open-source: https://github.com/usefathom/fathom

    We charge money for the hosted/maintained version only, but if you want to install it and run it yourself, it's free.

    It's too early to tell if it's worked, but our repo has sure given us a LOT of traffic and traction so far.

  4. 1

    At Filiosoft, we have open sourced a few pieces of software. You can find them here.

    1. Basically, if it's something others can make use of but wouldn't be easy to monetize on it's own, we will open source it. One example is a JavaScript library for Fly.io that we wrote for internal usage then open sourced.

    2. Using the Fly.io library as an example again, we posted the library in a few places (Twitter, Medium, etc). Fly retweeted our post. But beyond that we don't do much promotion of it.

    3. We aren't so much open sourcing entire pieces of the software. Just small utilities that we made for internal use.

    1. 3

      Thanks Noah.

      Have you seen an increase in signups or paying customers as a result of open sourcing a part of your software?

      1. 1

        No, we haven't. We currently have a total of 3 customers and are still pretty much MVP.