Will program for food, the future of Media Browser
almost 4 years ago
Media Browser has cost me a lot of time. According “ohloh”:http://www.ohloh.net/p/videobrowser Media Browsers cost to date has been close to half a million dollars.
In the last few months Jas and I spent quite a lot of time working on Media Browser. My main selfish goal has been to make the source code resume-worthy. Media Browser is now on my resume. My secondary selfish goal was to add a few features/architecture I really wanted. I also achieved that goal.
Yesterday I posted a question to the Joel-on-Software “The Business of Software” forums asking them if there is any way I can make a business out of MB. I got “tons of very thoughtful”:http://discuss.joelonsoftware.com/default.asp?biz.5.761750.11 replies.
I would like to divide the replies into a few camps:
h3. The “you are screwed” camp
They say: – Transitioning open source software to a viable business model is REALLY hard, perhaps impossible.
h3. The “software should not be free” camp
They say: – You are producing something useful, charge for it! Stop giving it away for free.
h3. The “create a pro version” camp
They say: – Ship one “free” open source product and a second paid “professional” edition. With extra features. “Wine and Crossover”:http://www.codeweavers.com/products/differences/ do this.
h3. The “charge for other stuff” camp
They say: – Charge for support. – Charge for customisation.
h2. Where do I stand?
I agree, I’m screwed, I like free-as-in-speech software I like the hackability, the community, the source contributions and the freedom. I wrote a lot of source code for lots companies, the vast majority of the software I wrote, I can no longer use. This really sucks, cause I spent lots of time writing reusable frameworks which I can no longer reuse or improve. I am not an “open source zealot”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Stallman but I have a soft spot for open-source.
I am not going to close the source. Even if I could get this past the other devs, this would be stabbing the community in the back, something that I will not stand for. We get great value out of having our source open. We get better testing and users can figure out stuff by themselves. We get patch contributions. Besides, the source is open today, it can not be unopened, someone can take the code today and fork it and start their own MB clone. Something that is likely to happen if we closed the source.
I am not going to create a pro version. By creating a pro edition, we would become our biggest competitors. I am also struggling to think of anything compelling I could offer beyond what there is today that a pro version could offer. Having a pro edition would also encourage forking.
I would like to start charging for support, customisation and ads. I would like to add a donate button somewhere. But this leaves a big open question:
h2. Who gets the benjamins?
Traditionally, in open source projects, the money goes to the projects running costs. Fortunately our running costs have been really low. Google hosts our downloads and a friend donated the slice MBs website is running on.
We are going to have to have some internal discussions about this. But the way I see it, only the BIG contributors are entitled to a slice of the cake.
h2. Where does it leave me?
I will not work full-time for free. Forget about it. Once we are done stabilizing the current version of MB I am going to take some time off MB and look into other opportunities that have some chance of making money. If we can figure out some way in which MB donations, support fees, customisation and ads pay for my salary I will be happy to continue working on MB, even full-time.
What do YOU think I should do? Where do you see the future of Media Browser?
EDIT I have made up my mind on what to do … “read about it here”:http://www.samsaffron.com/archive/2009/06/29/My+new+startup+Media+Browser