Riding the wave of its broad adoption, the eponymous company behind the open source Nginx Web server took a turn to the proprietary this week and announced a paid-only edition called Nginx plus. Nginx is popular as a simpler, high-performance server and is often used as a proxy load balancing other server software, as well as for embedded use.
The company had previously relied for revenue on large-scale and embedded deployers looking for expert skills, but this move signals a switch to an "open core" model. The move provoked widespread dismay in the free and open source software communities; Apache HTTPD veteran and Apache board member Jim Jagielski's comment deducing the proprietary is now the most important codebase for the company was one of the milder examples.
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Of course, others couldn't understand that reaction; one voice said, "Nginx offers premium support to companies it is making millions for, gets hit w/ fountain of nerdrage because they're somehow less free now." But the switch to open core definitely diminishes the commercial value of open source software; "freedom" is not just conceptual. By withholding the flexibility to use for any purpose, study the source, adapt the software, and pass to anyone without permission, Nginx has paradoxically lowered its value.