That is a question I get asked all the time. And quite rightly so. After all, without the license model and the source code being out in the open, free for everybody to download and do with it whatever they want – where is the actual product? And how do you make money with it?
Fabienne Riener, Source Fabric
The idea that open source means giving away software for free is something a lot of people find confusing to begin with. I think it’s right to ask the question – how is this thing sustainable? After all, if you’re going to base part of your business around using open source software for your blog, web hosting, whatever, you want to know that you can rely on it still being there in a couple of years time.
However, lots of businesses do seem to be able to make a profit whilst making a large portion of their product freely available, source code and all. I was looking for a good way to summarise how open source can be sustainable, but I found this excellent blog post by Sourcefabric that sums up most of it.
The only other point I can think of is missing is that open sourcing your codebase means you can potentially harness contributions from a much wider community than your own team, and hopefully produce a better product.