No need to worry as open source contributions decline

As open source projects mature, money replaces time as what the community contributes -- and that's just fine

As open source usage has entered the mainstream, are users contributing less time and money to open source projects, thereby putting the future of the project at risk? One CEO of a leading open-source-based company thinks so.

Open source loses it cachet

Today, vendors are adding "cloud" to the description of their company or product for two reasons: first, in the hopes of riding the hype around cloud computing; second, to shape the definition of what a cloud company or product is.

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Five years ago, vendors were using "open source" for the same reasons.

Since then, open source has become much better understood as a development, distribution, pricing, and licensing model by IT today. As a result, as the 451 Group's Matt Aslett explains, the term "open source" holds less value as a differentiator for vendors. Aslett writes: "These are among the highest-profile open source-related vendors, so the fact that half of them have dropped open source as an identifying differentiator in the last 12 months (and another two long before that) is not insignificant."

User contributions on a decline?

Brian Gentile, CEO of Jaspersoft, an open source business intelligence vendor, agrees with Aslett's conclusion that the term "open source" has lost its differentiating ability now that open source is a mainstream option for many companies.

As open source has become mainstream, Gentile notes he is seeing a decline in user contribution of time and money to open source communities. Gentile defines user contributions as follows:

Open source communities thrive based on the community members donating their time and/or money. Donating money typically comes in the form of buying or subscribing to the commercial versions of the open source products. Donating time can come in a wide variety of forms, including providing technical support for one another in forums, reviewing and commenting on projects, helping to QA a release candidate, assisting in localization efforts, and of course contributing code improvements (features, bug fixes, and the like).

Results from the 2010 Eclipse Survey support Gentile's claims about user contributions of time declining. In 2010, 41 percent of respondents, up from 27 percent in 2009, claimed they use open source software without contributing to the project.

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