Thursday, February 07, 2008

Open source is finally free

Last weekend I had dinner at Larry's new place (awesome house, BTW) and he told the story of when they got together and decided to stop using the term "free software" and agreed to start using "open source" instead. I probably heard it 20 times from multiple people, but it is still a good story ;-)

Now, this week we have made an announcement that has received a lot of attention in the mobile world and a little in the open source world (our marketing dollars are all on mobile these days).

We have made open source free software.

We have announced a partnership with Amobee to deliver our push email product to the masses, supported by mobile advertising. The service becomes totally free. Nobody pays (but the advertiser), everybody is happy.

The application looks pretty much like the following picture. The ad is non intrusive (and it is about a soccer team, which can't bother anyone but Americans :-)) It is the browsing paradigm on a PC by Google (ads on the right, not in the face of the user), brought to the equivalent on a mobile device, the messaging client (ad on top, not in the face of the user). This is not spam. Not even close.

I am sure if anyone in the FSF has managed to get to read this post to this point, s/he is jumping to the comments section to flame me. "We did not mean free as you mean it!". Agreed, but this is really free as in beer. There are no strings attached. No limitation in distribution. No need to return the code back to the community. Just free.

I personally have a feeling that the combination of open source and advertising could be THE big transformation in the software industry of the near future. You must be a tight-rope walker to manage it, but if you are able to put together these two trends, you are golden. In a way, this is what Google has been doing so far, with open source software built by others. But this is a step forward. Because it is our community building it and this is the way the money gets back into it (ok, I know, it pays my salary as well...).

The source is open and the software is free. What a novel concept.