Turning profit with open source software: Possible?

Recently, a slashdotter posed the question to slashdot readers: how could he make money with the open source software he created? The software, ironically enough, was a financial application and he really wanted it to live under the GPL. But how could he make a buck if anyone could have it for free? Most of the suggestions were for consulting or service for the software.

But there were some posing some really good solutions. One of those solutions was to USE the software. Have others USE the software. If the software is good, others will use that software. And at some point there will be people, inevitably, who will need other features for that software. When other features are requested, it's time for those users to start opening up their purse a bit.

To me that is an ideal solution. You get the basic package for free - and that package is under the open source license. But if there's a feature you want, and you can't code it yourself, the original developer will gladly do it for free. And why would that not be a good solution? The original developer should know exactly how to implement many new features into the software. Or at least he better, because if he doesn't, any given number of open source developers could come along and create those features for themselves.

This is the ultimate catch-22 with open source software (and probably the reason why some developers shy away from it): There's no money in it. But there should (and could) be! I know some open source developers that could code circles around developers with proprietary companies.

There were other ideas to help the developer make some scratch for his labor:

  • Sell a manual.
  • Advertise on the software site.
  • Show companies the software which could lead you to contract work or being straight-up hired.
  • Create Windows binaries and charge for them.

All in all, I think the developer has plenty of options available to him. Of course it's all up to him how he moves forward. Do you have any ideas on how to make money from open source software? If so, share them with us.

By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.