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Software The Almighty Buck

Interclue and What Going Proprietary Can Do 149

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the don't-get-greedy dept.
Linux.com (which shares a corporate overlord with Slashdot) has an interesting look at what going proprietary can mean for your overall effectiveness. Using Firefox extension "Interclue" as the object lesson, the piece looks at both the engineering and social difficulties surrounding the project. "Even more significantly, the efforts to commercialize only detract from the software itself. The basic idea behind Interclue would make for a handy Web utility, but seems too slight to build a business around. The effort to do so only leads to complications that do nothing to enhance the basic utility, and to pleas for donations that can only annoy. The result is that, if your position on free software doesn't lead you to avoid Interclue, the efforts to monetize it almost certainly will."
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Interclue and What Going Proprietary Can Do

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    are doubleplusbad.
    • by Amazing Quantum Man (458715) on Monday December 29, 2008 @02:35PM (#26260069) Homepage

      Your Newspeak is ungood. "bad" is ungroupthink. Use "doubleplusungood".

    • by LithiumX (717017)
      Brother, might I suggest that you read a copy of the new 14th Edition? I noticed you applied an unword in your post. Groupwise goodtalk is doublegood for all. War is unwar. Unthink is strongwise. Crimethink is crimethink. [note: "Freedom is Slavery" is scheduled to be redacted as an Ingsoc motto due to inherent incompatibility with Newspeak]
  • by plasmacutter (901737) on Monday December 29, 2008 @02:36PM (#26260075)

    After all, OS_X is the merging of proprietary and open source as well.

    I think this current example presented the way it has is a bit propagandistic.

    Both OSS and Proprietary have their virtues and vices, and it's a question of the project manager's competence whether or not a project brings out more of the former or the latter.

    • I also agree (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 29, 2008 @03:14PM (#26260483)

      Slashdot does have a tendency to spin everything into a "TEH FOSS IZ TEH ONLE SULUZION!!!11!!" direction, and to either distort stories, or select cherry picked stories.

      The truth is, to which I agree with the OP on this, that every single idea isn't something to build a business around. Kind of like web browsers- it's perfectly acceptable to me, and millions of other computer users throughout the world, that anyone making an OS would view that as a feature to be bundled. And yet... teh FOSSies still can't forgive MS for competing with their beloved Netscape, no matter how horrible that browser (and company) was in reality.

      However... there actually ARE ideas which are not only economically viable, but will thrive as a commercial enterprise. Would you REALLY trust a FOSS tax program? I wouldn't. Would you trust a FOSS app which converts documents to PDF? Sure!

      Both software models have their place. The sad fact is, there are zealots on both sides who are more interested in commercial vs. free than in using the right tool for the right job. It's always seemed to me that the FOSSie outcry over commerical software was really just their justification for MS hatred, rather than opposition to commerical software- that's why Slashdot grants Apple their "most favored monopoly" status, despite the fact that Apple is not just a commerical product company... but is so with brutally impunity.

      • Re:I also agree (Score:4, Insightful)

        by MrNaz (730548) * on Monday December 29, 2008 @03:40PM (#26260723) Homepage

        Would you REALLY trust a FOSS tax program?

        The question should really be, would you *really* trust a program that nobody could audit?

        • Re:I also agree (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Daravon (848487) on Monday December 29, 2008 @04:23PM (#26261177)

          I don't know if "trust" is the right word. Both programs can contain errors. The product with a guarantee to cover your ass if the error lands you in trouble with the IRS is the one that I'd be most likely to go with.

          Which sounds better:
          A) Saving a fifty dollars on a piece of tax software, and an audit from the IRS lands you a hefty fine plus interest on the amount that was really owed
          OR
          B) Spending fifty dollars on a piece of tax software, and an audit from the IRS lands you a hefty fine plus interest on the amount that was really owed that is paid for by the company that made the tax software?

          While FOSS has its place, there are times when going with the proprietary solution has more inherit value. The best solution in the above situation is a FOSS product that will cover any expense incurred due to an error in the software, but in the real world a project like that would die after the first bug.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by chromatic (9471)

            While FOSS has its place, there are times when going with the proprietary solution has more inherit value.

            What does this have to do with tax software? A business could certainly offer paid indemnification even while giving away the software under a F/OSS license. I won't guarantee that it's a successful business model -- I haven't tried it -- but there's nothing inherent to the business or the software which prevents this approach.

          • well the real solution to this would be a FOSS project, but the ability to buy a guarantee from some company like that still.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by remmelt (837671)

            The software and the insurance are two separate things. The fact that your tax software was closed source has nothing to do with the guarantee that it doesn't contain known errors.

            This is an opportunity for OSS vendors: they could offer guaranteed patches, an SLA even. For a small fee, they could compensate you for when things go wrong. Come to think of it, this is what vendors are already doing, along with insurance companies.

            The inherent value is not in that it's closed source, but in the company backing

          • my experience with tax software is that it's fairly conservative, so rather than getting fined, you're more likely to claim less stuff because you don't know what can be claimed and get less money back. You'd still be out the money, but with less stress.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Bert64 (520050)

            If the IRS are setting the rules, then they should be supplying the software that complies with their rules, and open sourcing it while maintaining control of official builds would make a lot of sense.

            Also, do any proprietary vendors actually guarantee their products? Most proprietary software comes with absolutely no warrantee, same as open source does, is tax software sold differently?

            And what's to stop a third party auditing an open source tax program, and offering you a certified build of it with a guar

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by schon (31600)

            Which sounds better:

            I have a better one for you.

            Which sounds better:

            A) Saving $200 and using Linux, where you have a bug that causes it to eat all your data, and you lose all of your work.
            OR
            B) Spending $200 on Windows, and when it has a bug that causes it to eat your data, Microsoft pays someone to re-create the work for you.

            It's pretty obvious which one is better. It's just as obvious which one is pure fantasy.

        • by drsmithy (35869)

          The question should really be, would you *really* trust a program that nobody could audit?

          This is a false dichotomy. There is nothing preventing a closed-source program from being audited.

          • by vadim_t (324782)

            Who would audit it though, and would the actual results be ever published if negative?

            With OSS, anybody can audit and post a list of problems with references to the source code on their blog.

            With closed source, the company would pay another company to perform the audit. The result would most likely be one or two:

            A report like "this is completely safe" with no proof, because the auditing company wants to make the one paying them happy.

            Or, no report at all, because the result was negative and the company deci

            • by drsmithy (35869)

              Trust is a separate issue, and highly dependent upon the audience.

              • by vadim_t (324782)

                Trust is not required when the evidence is in the open.

                An audit of OSS can easily include references to specific lines in the source code. If the audit says that there's a potential buffer overflow I can go look myself and verify that indeed there's a problem. And if the audit says that AES encryption is used, then I can go and verify that indeed it is AES and not XOR or some homebrew thing.

                • by drsmithy (35869)

                  Trust is not required when the evidence is in the open.

                  Of course it is. Unless you have the resources to verify the audit yourself, you need to trust the person who has done it on your behalf to have done it properly.

                  An audit of OSS can easily include references to specific lines in the source code. If the audit says that there's a potential buffer overflow I can go look myself and verify that indeed there's a problem. And if the audit says that AES encryption is used, then I can go and verify that ind

                  • by vadim_t (324782)

                    Of course it is. Unless you have the resources to verify the audit yourself, you need to trust the person who has done it on your behalf to have done it properly.

                    I said "not required". If you let some company do it for you and have no way to verify, you must trust them even if you have the skill to verify, you simply have no other option.

                    That's great. Now, how do you know J Random Blogger hasn't left out (through either malice or incompetence) problems during their 'audit' ?

                    How do you know Trusted Audits, I

                    • by drsmithy (35869)

                      I said "not required". If you let some company do it for you and have no way to verify, you must trust them even if you have the skill to verify, you simply have no other option.

                      The assumption thus far (put forth by you) has been that some third party would be auditing the code, because its open source nature allowed them to.

                      Practically speaking, individuals (and small to medium-sized businesses) do not have the resources to audit non-trivial amounts of source code. That means they need to trust someone

                    • by vadim_t (324782)

                      The assumption thus far (put forth by you) has been that some third party would be auditing the code, because its open source nature allowed them to.

                      Which holds for a quite good amount of it, actually. Take a look at how Linux distributions do packaging: Very often the distribution is applying their own patches. Large projects like the kernel, Firefox, or apache very rarely are delivered as pristine upstream source. Which means that yes, there are people reading that source code. They may not be reading 100

                    • by drsmithy (35869)

                      Which holds for a quite good amount of it, actually. Take a look at how Linux distributions do packaging: Very often the distribution is applying their own patches. Large projects like the kernel, Firefox, or apache very rarely are delivered as pristine upstream source. Which means that yes, there are people reading that source code. They may not be reading 100% of it, but just that somebody completely unrelated and completely outside the developer's control could be watching makes sneaking in something na

                    • by WNight (23683)

                      However, the implication that people doing work (or, at least, coding) for money cannot be trusted seems to be quite common amongst the OSS crowd

                      It's not the for-profit nature people don't trust, but the fact that these studies can not be verified, the standards judged, or the number of failed studies known. It's misleading to report positive results without listing negative results, yet no auditing company that I've seen insists its clients do this...

                      such little respect for their peers' ethics

                      What ethics? Organizations that provide meaningless (non-verifiable, etc) results for marketing campaigns aren't really ethically driven.

                      For those (the overwhelming majority) who lack the resources to audit the code themselves, the ability OSS engenders to do so is moot, and they have to trust someone else to do it.

                      You can easily (within three lines pasted into a shell) start lo

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by MrNaz (730548) *

            Tell that to Diebold.

      • Re:I also agree (Score:4, Interesting)

        by cromar (1103585) on Monday December 29, 2008 @03:45PM (#26260771)
        Overall I agree, but for a few points.

        teh FOSSies still can't forgive MS for competing with their beloved Netscape

        The problem was that MS used anti-competitive measures to hurt Netscape's market share and promote I.E.

        Would you REALLY trust a FOSS tax program?

        Yes, we would trust it if, say, a company such as H&R Block had the code analyzed and was able to certify its accuracy.

        that's why Slashdot grants Apple their "most favored monopoly" status

        The editors? Maybe. The commentators? ... I generally see about a ratio of 4 anti-fanboi posts to 1 Apple fanboi post when Apple comes up in discussion. In fact, I am noticing that there are more people complaining about Slashdot nowadays, but the posters they complain about seem to be harder to find...

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by quanticle (843097)

          Yes, we would trust it if, say, a company such as the IRS had the code analyzed and was able to certify its accuracy.

          There, fixed that for you. Frankly, given H&R's reputation as an audit-magnet (due to their aggressive deductions), I'd be more wary of something that they endorsed, not less.

        • You do know netscape was more anti-competitive than microsoft right?

          They were so arrogant they were trying to remake the entire industry around themselves.

          • Re:I also agree (Score:4, Insightful)

            by pjt33 (739471) on Monday December 29, 2008 @05:07PM (#26261585)

            Whereas Microsoft already had: that's the point. In this context anti-competitive doesn't mean "aiming for lock-in" but "exploiting overwhelming market dominance in one field to unfairly gain overwhelming market dominance in another". In a world where nearly everyone bought Windows, bundling a browser with it for "free" (i.e. not allowing the consumer to choose not to pay that portion) meant that even if the competitor's product were completely free it would still have to be considerably better and well marketed to gain mindshare. That's as competitive as putting me up against Usain Bolt in the 100m: no matter how arrogant I am, my best hope is for him to be struck by lightning.

        • by Pulzar (81031)

          The problem was that MS used anti-competitive measures to hurt Netscape's market share and promote I.E.

          Yes, but they also made a better product. Netscape stopped improving their product (and in fact kept making it slower and buggier), while MS made something that worked fairly fast and didn't crash as much.

          Who knows what would've happened if "Netscape Firefox" came out when IE3 was out -- it would've been a lot harder to displace its user base.

          • by Bert64 (520050)

            Netscape stopped improving their product (and in fact kept making it slower and buggier), while MS made something that worked fairly fast and didn't crash as much.

            For a while at least, once Netscape were out of the way MS didn't make any serious updates to their browser for years, and dropped all the non windows versions.

          • The way I remember it is that (especially on Mac System 7) Netscape was better for the most part up until IE (5?) surpassed them at the end of the Mac browser wars... IIRC Netscape had the better browser for years (till about the middle of the anti-trust lawsuit?)

            Don't ask me to go into too much detail... I was ~12 at the time :) I do remember that Netscape was faster until Mac IE beat it and that was the best for a while until Firefox came out and kicked Mac IE 5's and IE 6's asses.

            What I do remember we
        • Re:I also agree (Score:4, Insightful)

          by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Monday December 29, 2008 @06:21PM (#26262395)

          The problem was that MS used anti-competitive measures to hurt Netscape's market share and promote I.E.

          That rationale came after the BSOD-fueled MS hatred.

          I generally see about a ratio of 4 anti-fanboi posts to 1 Apple fanboi post when Apple comes up in discussion.

          It has definitely changed quite a bit this year. Go back a couple of years and any negative remark about Apple would earn you a lesson. From what I've observed, this goes in cycles. Early on Slashdot was very anti-Microsoft. Stories would be twisted (misleading headlines, for example...) to get the pitchforks a'wavin against MS. It was all fun for a while, but Windows 2000 came out and over time people started to adopt it. With the BSOD virtually extinct and the main stability issues addressed, the tired jokes were getting... old. Eventually these people earned mod-points and general opinions on Slashdot started to balance a bit. The main difference? Back then you could say that Windows didn't support color graphics and get modded as informative for it. After the backlash you had to be a lot more careful about what claims you made.

          So what does this have to do with Apple? Right about the time the iPod came out, Apple was pretty highly regarded around here. I might have my timing wrong. Maybe it was OSX running on BSD. Eh, I dunno, I didn't pay that much attention to the Apple stories. Any criticism would land you in trouble. I remember a story where a dude stuffed a PC into an iMac case. I made a joke like "It'll be the first time a Mac ever saw GTA!" and.. blammo, troll. (As I recall, the moderation went back up after I explained it was a joke.) Apple was riding high up until the iPhone came out. I'm not sure what precisely happened here. I remember the iPhone was actually well receieved, but maybe it was a case of too many silly iPhone stories soured people. (I wouldn't rule out a bit of envy, too. I was guilty of this. I was stuck in a contract, couldn't get one, so I'd crack jokes at its expense.) I dunno, I think the real turning point was the people waiting in line at that store for no apparent reason close to the launch of the iPhone 3G. Turns out they had a reason for being there, but by the time that was discovered a good time had already been had at their expense. So more anti-iPhone stuff. Anti-iPhone leads to anti-Mac, and so on. (Not that the Air was an underrated machine...) Well that's died down and we're starting to see s'more balance.

          A couple of years ago I predicted that 2007 would be the year Google became Slashdot's villain. Well, that hasn't happened yet, but I'm starting to see signs of it. Then after the hate comes out, people will step up and even things out, then on to the next big bad guy.

          I personally would like to see what effect removing Slashdot's moderation system would have on fanboyism.

          • Back then you could say that Windows didn't support color graphics and get modded as informative for it. After the backlash you had to be a lot more careful about what claims you made.

            Today, you can be as careless as you desire, so long as your claims refer to Vista specifically, and not Windows in general.

      • by DMalic (1118167)
        .. what? Yes, I would very much want FOSS tax software. I would also want to pay a supplier for whatever the standard anti-IRS indemnity is.
      • by MightyYar (622222)

        Slashdot grants Apple their "most favored monopoly" status

        'Cause they aren't a monopoly? The closest they come to monopoly status would be in music/media players - a field with very healthy competition and hundreds of choices.

      • Re:I also agree (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Hijacked Public (999535) on Monday December 29, 2008 @05:52PM (#26262063)

        Odd that Slashdot (or Linux.com I guess) needed to look at Interclue to see what going proprietary does for you.

        Why not give us detailed report on the history of VA Linux->VA Software->Sourceforge? No third party needed. You start a company to build servers that run Linux and do well. Then you buy up Andover to get various FOSS scene web sites to generate buzz. Change your company name a few times just in case anyone is following you.

        Decide to IPO at $30/share. None other than the great economist Eric S. Raymond tells us it is a can't miss proposition winner, he being hired to act as the company's Open Source mouthpiece and keep them comitted to the principals or openness and sharing and the like. Everybody cheers your big IPO and sees it as proof that money can be made while staying Open. Stock price like $300+.

        Before the cheers die down you find out can no longer make go of it in the server market so you try to sell proprietary software. Release a proprietary version of the previously OSS Sourceforge, form the OSDN then promtly kick out K5 and, again, throw in a name change to OSTG.

        Again find out that your business model doesn't work, sell your flagship product, Sourceforge, to CollabNet.

        Best I can tell the company is now "leader in IT community-driven media and e-commerce", which I think means it sells ads and trinkets. Stock price last I checked was in the $0.85 range.

        So anyway, I don't see why they needed to go study Interclue.

      • by gazita123 (589586)
        Why not keep the application closed until it has broken even? Offer a free service and come up with some extra features that are very nifty which are only available in a paid edition. After everyone is paid off, then open source it.
    • After all, OS_X is the merging of proprietary and open source as well.

      True, but i tend not to have any proprietary extensions on my default profile because i don't trust them to not sell my data to 3rd parties, in fact I'm fairly sure that's what they do do to make money. Also with interclue specifically it just didn't seam worth the effort running when i can just open the tab then close it if its not what i want without any potential privacy risk.

      Both OSS and Proprietary have their virtues and vices

      What exactly are the virtues of proprietary software? It seams to me that it has to be your forced to do something you may not wan

      • by quanticle (843097)

        What exactly are the virtues of proprietary software? It seams to me that it has to be your forced to do something you may not want to. want to use an ipod? Got to use itunes! want to use OS X? Got to use expensive mac hardware! want to work with people using the latest version of office? Got to use the latest version of office! If proprietary software has virtues why bother with lock-in, surely it could compete by itself on a level playing field?

        Proprietary software can compete on a level playing field. Just look at SubEthaEdit [codingmonkeys.de]. Where's the lock-in there? Its a text editor - no proprietary formats at all. Yet, it manages to compete by making things like collaborative editing significantly easier than its competitors, both free and proprietary.

        Same thing with all the software you've listed. No one's forcing you to use an iPod, a Mac or even the latest version of Office. There are competing MP3 players, competing computer systems, and OpenOffic

      • What exactly are the virtues of proprietary software?

        they have managers who are interested in interface design, and thus are more "casual friendly".
        I also note that, despite there being numerous nations where software patents don't apply, several proprietary formats are underdeveloped in the FOSS community as a "matter of principle", when people out there still have to deal with those formats.
        Small-time proprietary/shareware projects (see visualhub) don't suffer from this.

      • by murdocj (543661)

        Unless you are building something simple software development going to take a group of people and a chunk of time. If it's interesting to a group of developers who are willing to work on it for free, that's great, but otherwise you have to raise capital, and the folks supplying capital would like to see a return on investment. Selling the software is one way to get that return.

        Proprietary isn't evil / nasty / only practiced by necrophiles. It exists because it's a reasonable business model. Without prop

    • It's not even cherry picking. The article doesn't go into any more depth than the summary does, Now word of what the complications causd by it being commercial are. As far as I can tell, they're just pissy they don't have source code for it.

      OSX might be a bad counter example to use though, since OSX has a fee associated with it, and giving a program away for free and selling it for cash are two entirely different business models, open source works for one much better than the other.

  • Definition time. (Score:4, Informative)

    by AltGrendel (175092) <ag-slashdot@ex[ ].us ['it0' in gap]> on Monday December 29, 2008 @02:36PM (#26260079) Homepage
    From WikiPedia:

    Angel capital is money invested in a business to provide equity capital, not debt which must be repaid regardless of the success of the business. More often than not angel investments are combination of funds and the business expertise of the investor(s). Angel investment transactions are made with the expectation of a very large financial return to the investor per dollar invested if the business succeeds. Angel investments are also made with the expectation of psychological rewards for the investors. These are obtained from their personal contributions to the growth of the business, time and business expertise. The investment decision is thus both financial and personal. Risk and reward take a more complex form than in almost any other financial transaction. It is risk and rewards.

    • by Tweenk (1274968)

      You Have Won The AnnoyinglyMisplacedCamelCaseBingo! Sponsored by makers of InterNet ExPlorer, MicroSoft SQL SerVer and InterNet InforMation SerVices.

  • by Gizzmonic (412910) on Monday December 29, 2008 @02:37PM (#26260083) Homepage Journal

    What's with the incoherent summary? Nowhere in the summary did this even mention what "Interclue" was supposed to do, and why we should care about attempts to "monetize" it (lame corporate speak when applied outside the finance world).

    Editors must be sleepwalking through the end of '08.

    • by Cro Magnon (467622) on Monday December 29, 2008 @02:44PM (#26260163) Homepage Journal

      Editors must be sleepwalking through the end of '08.

      Only the end? :)

    • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Monday December 29, 2008 @02:51PM (#26260245) Homepage

      Clearly the editors were all replaced by small perl scripts at the beginning of '08. Possibly earlier.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by MikeDirnt69 (1105185)
        Do you think humans runs the self-called corporate overlord? Silly.
      • Judging from the article review quality I would say they were replaced by very large VB/BF hybrid scripts running on windows ME.

    • Rereading the summary, I believe it can be translated into human as follows:

      Merry Christmas, Slashdot-reading humans! We are enjoying our holidays and have decided to let twitter pose as an editor during this period. Normal service will be resumed when we have sobered up.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I guess you were supposed to move the cursor over the link and pause, waiting for a preview of the linked article to appear, and read it. Maybe the /. editor is subtly promoting the usage of a proprietary Firefox expansion!! [/conspiracy theory]

    • It's Byfield (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      His latest MO is to promote a piece of proprietary software in a piece mistitled to sound critical.

      But despite the title, this piece appears to be nothing more than an Interclue press release. Note that while it does casually mention that it's proprietaryness carries some vague baggage, most of the article just describes all the add-in's features in a positive light, and re-emphasizes it's usefulness.

      The only thing I can't find is where he promotes Mono.

    • by medelliadegray (705137) on Monday December 29, 2008 @04:05PM (#26260995)

      It's a great marketing strategy, really. Post some blurb about some product no one has heard of--and make it's dilemma known to an audience with a broad interest around such problems, and a potential interest in said products.

      sheepishly, the intrigued masses walk into the clutches of the marketers to find out more about this company, and what it does.

      I hate marketing.

  • forked review (Score:3, Insightful)

    by revery (456516) <charles@nOsPAM.cac2.net> on Monday December 29, 2008 @02:38PM (#26260089) Homepage

    If the a lack of a Creative Commons license for linux.com content doesn't lead you to avoid the website, their efforts to indoctrinate you certainly will...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by larry bagina (561269)

      Fuck CC. They need to use the GFDL license. They can monetize by selling tshirts and coffee cups at their concerts.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Monday December 29, 2008 @02:40PM (#26260109) Homepage

    Software history tends to repeat itself. I remember back in the 1980s, when software distributed on floppy disks often had copy protection. Legitimate users voted with their feet, because it was too much of a nuisance -- e.g., you couldn't back up your software. Software houses eventually got the message and stopped doing it. Now, a generation later, we seem to be going through the same silliness again, except that now they call it DRM.

    Similar deal with these little proprietary pieces of crapware. Back in the 90s, there was a period when the internet had gained quite a bit of mindshare, but OSS hadn't. During that time, you'd get people posting lots of trivial little pieces of software on the web, with various schemes intended to extract some small amount of money from the customer: nagware, adware, shareware, crippleware, ... That whole scene was a total dead end. In most cases, programmers found that the amount of revenue they got was essentially zero; this was the users indicating that although the software was somewhat useful to them, it wasn't useful enough to pay money for. Then OSS started getting popular, and most clueful users started to realize that it was a better way to go. Now we have some new software platforms -- firefox+xul, browser+ajax, and the iPhone -- and everyone seems to need to learn the same lesson all over again. At some point, the users who didn't go through this in the 90s are going to realize some of the same things. They're going to realize that spending $5 or $10 on lots of little pieces of software will eventually add up to real money. They're going to realize that it's a hassle to have to keep track of all the software, registration numbers, etc. They're going to realize that it's no fun to have to go back and reproduce this whole set of proprietary apps every time they buy new hardware.

    • Does anybody really write applications using XUL?

    • This is actually true. I have a Linux site and a Windows site and the Windows site is filled with a couple of cheap apps that I wrote and the Linux site is all GPL free stuff. I've found that the Linux site actually makes me more money off of advertising revenues and I can leverage that as some experience on my resume for more work. Now in between contracts, what I'm going to do is refocus my Linux site and my Windows site into a single site that gives out a bunch of free stuff, and then, if I do want to charge for something, it won't be some crappy utility that noone registers anyway. Small utilities are advertising, in their own right.

    • Are you sure it really happened that way, or is this just remembering things like you wanted them to happen? I seem to remember shareware houses doing quite well, and commercial apps were far far superior to any free alternative.
      • I seem to remember shareware houses doing quite well...

        Ohhh, you've reminded me of Walnut Creek Simtel CDROM! I had one from 1993. It was nicely packaged. What nostalgia!

        That reminds me of a joke from another CDROM in 1993.

        Q: How do you teach a girl mathematics? [yahoo.com]
        A: Add her to the bed, subtract her clothes, divide her legs, and start multiplying.

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Yeah, they did very well in a brief period. Basically the latter days of the BBS era -- once the internet began to be widely available, the bottom rapidly dropped out of the shareware market.

        It was a problem of supply, really. BBS systems tended to pass stuff around smaller, local markets, and acted as a kind of portal. This restricted the amount of options you had, and there was social pressure to avoid posting serials and keys and full versions. Once the internet came along, you'd know the instant

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          Back in the dim mists of time, when fax machines were the latest thing, I wrote a DOS program that created fax cover sheets and kept a little address book of fax numbers. I initially wrote it because the office where I worked had just got a fax machine. I then gave it away on BBS's with a little "Send me $20 if you decide to use this regularly" message that came up once, when you did the initial program setup (enter your company name, fax number, etc).

          That little program was included in a lot of "

  • by thermian (1267986) on Monday December 29, 2008 @02:41PM (#26260117)

    You know what makes a good proprietary conversion of an open source or free product? Succeeding.

    There is no certain way to succeed in *anything*.

    There are always going to be thousands of failures for every success in the software world, and thousands of moderate or short term successes for every 'killer app' class of success.

    I don't want to hear about also rans being analysed to prove a point that was arrived at before the article was even begun.

  • by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Monday December 29, 2008 @02:43PM (#26260145) Journal

    Does it really surprise anyone that Linux.com would be against any project going closed source? That would be kind of like being surprised the Westboro Baptist Church put out a statement denouncing homosexuality.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Aladrin (926209)

      It also seems that they deliberately took a project that was doomed to fail.

      "The basic idea behind Interclue would make for a handy Web utility, but seems too slight to build a business around."

      Yeah, so, they took a project that couldn't be commercialized effectively, tried to commercialize it, and failed.

      This isn't a lesson in going from OS to Commercial, it's a lesson in predictable failure.

    • You'll note that Linux.com content isn't released under the GFDL...

  • Would it be overly mean of me to say I've read slashdot comments a quarter the size of TFA that communicate both more information and a more coherent analysis of a similarly complex issue?

    Because, ouch.

  • by SlashDotDotDot (1356809) on Monday December 29, 2008 @02:49PM (#26260219) Journal
    The key sentence in the article is:

    The basic idea behind Interclue would make for a handy Web utility, but seems too slight to build a business around.

    To rephrase: If your product isn't valuable enough for people to spend money on, it will be hard to make money selling it. The rest of the article is a fairly well-written review of an obscure add-on, with very little insight about open vs. proprietary software.

    • by symbolic (11752)

      There are, of course, a few exceptions. Windows, for example.

      • Windows isn't a cheap utility. It's an operating system that has any number of components that a developer could leverage and use. Yeah, Windows isn't free as in beer or in open, but, the developer generally doesn't pay the cost of the libraries that get bundled with it, consumers do.

        So, in essence, Windows is a tax on consumers for developers to get nearly free stuff to write for. This model makes it impossible for third party library providers to actually succeed unless they deliver some niche that Win

        • by Bill Dog (726542)

          That's one novel way of looking at it, as Windows being basically a pre-distributed, kick-ass runtime. Basically a set of DLL's that abstract various things for programmers and provide them a C API (Win32), oh yeah plus a few utilities for users.

          • by drsmithy (35869)

            That's one novel way of looking at it, as Windows being basically a pre-distributed, kick-ass runtime. Basically a set of DLL's that abstract various things for programmers and provide them a C API (Win32), oh yeah plus a few utilities for users.

            Indeed. Otherwise known (academic pedantry notwithstanding) as an Operating System.

            • by tjstork (137384)

              Indeed. Otherwise known (academic pedantry notwithstanding) as an Operating System

              Don't be so harsh. In some circles the operating system would be just the kernel and accompanying low level interfaces into the hardware. You wouldn't have GUI widgets or libraries for ftp, http, etc, as part of the operating system, and indeed, there are many operating systems that do not.

              • by drsmithy (35869)

                Don't be so harsh. In some circles the operating system would be just the kernel and accompanying low level interfaces into the hardware. You wouldn't have GUI widgets or libraries for ftp, http, etc, as part of the operating system, and indeed, there are many operating systems that do not.

                The proportion of people who use the academic definition (which itself is somewhat flexible) of "Operating System" outside of educational institutions vanishingly small. The proportion who do so consistently and honest

    • by stephanruby (542433) on Monday December 29, 2008 @03:17PM (#26260521)
      Also, if your proprietary firefox extension/add-on already has a dozen competing free open source firefox add-ons that already do the same thing (previewing links), then you're probably fooling yourself and you're probably defrauding/scamming/lying to your clueless angel investor as well.
    • Not only that, this developer somehow managed to get angel investment for a Firefox plug-in? I've not heard of something like that happening, especially with an idea of such little value and I think the concept is available in other forms for free and without nags. Given that most FF plug-ins are free, even the really good and useful ones, I think it would have to really sell itself as a commercial product.

  • Dual licensing. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by john.picard (1440397) on Monday December 29, 2008 @03:32PM (#26260647)
    Many businesses are accustomed to signing site-wide or per-seat licensing fees for software. Many of the PHBs in these businesses are somewhat put off by free software because they feel kind of weird about simply downloading and using software. For this reason, free software that wants to "go proprietary" should instead do this: keep the free license but add a second license that can, at a user's option, apply simultaneously to the same software. This second license would be the most prohibitive thing you've ever heard of and would require licensing fees in the stratosphere. In return, the customer gets the right to use the software throughout their site and would have also have the right to receive setup assistance, training, and other technical support. Essentially, the price would cover this support, since the software is essentially free, but it would make these PHBs feel warm and fuzzy inside from having to sign an expensive and very official looking licensing contract. They (or anybody else for that matter) could always simply download the same exact software from the Internet and use it free of charge, though it would not come with the warm fuzzy feeling or with the technical support.
    • You make light of the technical support, instead focussing on the "warm fuzzy feeling". Technical support is a very serious concern for PHBs when implementing an IT system. After all, it is his head on the chopping block if the system goes down and his response is to have parts of the business out of operation while his guys Google up possible fixes on the net, hoping that one exists. A free unsupported web widget is fine - if something goes wrong you use another one. A free unsupported RDBMS is not so

  • ...and it looks like Interclue pops up an icon that tries to add information about a link as you hover over it. Kinda like those active links on crappy websites that pop up a little window either offering to transport you to a site to get the best price on 'SQL injection attacks', a reference site explaining 't-shirts', or offering to let you fill out a survey because YOUR opinion is 'important'.

    Yeah. I need more spam in my life. Won't be paying for this add-on. I get enough crap on websites already.

    • by ultracool (883965)
      I've been using Interclue for a while now, and it's not as you describe it. It is actually useful and unobtrusive. The little window only opens up if you mouse over the small icon that appears next to the link. It isn't anything like Snap which is horrendously annoying.
  • Did anyone else notice the last comment attached to the article, which mentioned Mitt Romney in the title and contained gibberish that tried to mimic proper sentence structure? Sadly you won't find it now, because I blinked and refreshed the page and it disappeared before I could copy it. Normally such gibberish posts include a URL linking to a site hawking pharma, sex aids, or malware; this one, however, was JUST text. What could be the point? Are they trying to poison Bayesian filters, in preparation

  • We have a trio of applications. Two come from the opensource world, the third is proprietary (Actually, end customers are allowed to tinker with the code, it just invalidates support agreements and they cannot redistribute). We provide the source code back via our branch at the main development SVN. Very few of our changes have seen their way to the main trunk simply because our particular niche is so specific that it has little use out side of our primarily business.

    If people want to look at our code a

  • There is actually no scenarios where proprietary software is better for it's user. NONE. It's only good for the one who produced that code to hold on the know-how. And you cannot create know how out of nothing, you are always gonna ALWAYS stand on someone's shoulders, be it the creater of binary code or the author of some common algorithm, thousands of whom did their work to archieve this level of science. The users of proprietary software are mostly 1: forced to upgrade at some point 2: left in the rain 3:

I cannot conceive that anybody will require multiplications at the rate of 40,000 or even 4,000 per hour ... -- F. H. Wales (1936)

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