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OSS vs Proprietary Systems

- Articles1001

I know what you're thinking, it really doesn't make a difference, if someone coughs up the money, then they can get access to the piece of software, does it really make a difference? Well, I would say it does.

Firstly, if we ignore all this and that about price points and renewals and other matters, what we fundamentally get down to is that proprietary systems are walled gardens which are harder to move data out of, but which may otherwise treat you fairly well, in the meanwhile.

However. Not always. If it's an OSS (open source software) project, someone can easily write a script to move you off it, if it's popular enough or they're feeling nice. If it's proprietary, then someone would need a license for the particular version that you're running and for the license to allow them to write a script in the first place to move you off it.

And moving to a higher version in the same track which they do support may result in your service provider charging you a pretty sum, assuming that they still maintain an upgrader for that version. Ouch.But at the same time, you're probably thinking. Well, the proprietary providers usually provide rich feature sets and are usually close to the cutting edge, while anyone can jump into OSS code, it's usually inferior, right?

Uh. No. For the forum market at-least, the proprietary products are extremely conservative and avoid change for the most part. Every now and then, they'll pull in a new feature and sometimes they'll implement a feature from many years ago which they have seen used elsewhere.

There are some projects which make money from SaaS models and push an open source version of the software on the side without lacking a single feature. Just because a project is OSS doesn't mean that you can't make money off it and use it to help you to pay the bills and I'd say that the surrounding ecosystems are almost easier to enter, as you don't need to get through a pricey paywall.

It's not even necessarily the monthly or yearly bills which are problematic but the $140 upfront for the sake of selling a product which might not even sell in a market you don't know. It's nice to be able to experiment and prototype and gauge interest in a market without taking a big plunge straight-up. While $140 isn't much money in the long run, it is still a barrier.

You might look at that and tell me that there are thriving proprietary ecosystems, particularly forum ones, but you do have to keep in mind that some of these ecosystems are ancient, vB has existed since 2003 or so (don't quote me on this!) and IPB (they rename the product a lot, I think it was Invision Community now) is also an eternal existence.

As for XF, a very curious number of things aligned to allow it to come into being. The other non-SaaS ones never really took off, even at a lower price point for an equivalent product, and the SaaS ones never really took off in many areas. And some which have are OSS as-well.