Business Model change by CouchDB founder


Jan 19 2012

Business Model change by CouchDB founder

In an article on Business Insider I found out that Damien Katz, the founder of CouchDB, decided to move away from the Apache project and to the Couchbase project, leaded from the VC backed company Couchbase.

What he is doing is what I described in my previous blog articles:

First Damien Katz should be recognized and respected for his incredible Open Source contribution with the work he did with CouchDB.

Now one can understand that he might want to control more the future of his product and/or that he wants/needs to earn money out of his innovation and the success of it and/or that he wants to build up this innovation as fast as possible.

But in his article there are a few things that are not acceptable from my point of view:

1/ Not respecting his own project CouchDB and your own contributors by using the title that he used. The title basically say that whatever he does will be better and dismisses what the Open Source Community could make out of the code he contributed to. He might be right in the end if his model works out better, but it's a plain lack of respect

2/ He is not mentioning the Couchbase is built out of the Couchbase startup and that it's company funded by investors. He is indeed not mentionning that currently the couchbase code is Open Source (although it is now at the end of his post after Chris Anderson has mentionned it). Obvisouly many people understood that the move was about money. He might put some doubts in the head of people by stating that "everything" couchbase is open source at this moment. Now can he tell us that he can guarantee that in the FUTURE, "everything" couchbase does will be open source ? I'm pretty sure he won't, mostly because I'm pretty sure his investors would not agree with that and that it won't be the case in the future.

He should be honest about the real reasons of the move. It's because he is in a business oriented company, and wants to control the direction of the technology that is build, and he plans with his investors to make significant profits out of this work and that in the future his creations might not be open sourced.

It is very sad, that it seems that many Open Source companies are using the business model of gathering a community with the open source code, and then progressively close whatever they do in order to make more money out of it. I specifically mention "more money" out of it, because I personally believe that in most cases you can make money out of a respectfull open source strategy, but there are a few constrains there and probably one of them is to not need outside investors. This is what we try to do at XWiki SAS where we have a manifesto which explains the way we plan to behave and where we have commited ourselves to stick to our model.

Ludovic Dubost
Creator of XWiki Open Source Software and Open Source company XWiki SAS