0

By "consumer software", I mean stand-alone software that an end-user would directly download and use on a desktop or phone. No business or corporation involved. I have read these questions on the matter:

The typical recommendations are to sell a service, sell support, sell customization, or sell consulting if there are a lot of configuration options. However, all these options assume B2B sales. An end-user for consumer software expects to pay a fee and use the program with minimum friction. For well designed software, they may never need to look at the help menu.

If the software itself is the product, I cannot think of a viable FLOSS business model nor am I aware of existing commercial consumer software that is FLOSS. It also seems like others have come to the same conclusion as me. I did find, however, examples, of commercial consumer software that was resold at a price lower than the original. IANAL, but from my understanding of FLOSS licenses, you cannot restrict someone's ability to sell your FLOSS code in any fashion. So no matter what, if you're just selling software, someone else can always undercut your price. Also, someone could fork your code and build a competing product. Which is partly the point of FLOSS, but from a business point of view, reduces your competitive advantage.

I've looked into the Open-core model which seems like the next best option for commercial consumer software. But again, all the examples I've found are libraries or SaaS companies. You could also argue that the open-core model restricts user freedom, but I haven't found any commentary from an expert on the matter. Apparently, some programs have open source code, but proprietary content and assets, but this only seems appropriate for software that's orientated around entertainment.

From my research, if you can only sell your software, there are nearly no FLOSS options you can build a business around. If this is accurate, unfortunately, that means they're nearly no ways to respect user freedom if you can only sell software. Can someone prove me wrong? Because otherwise this conclusion is kinda depressing.

1 Answer 1

2

One of the central objectives of FLOSS is to place all recipients on roughly equal footing as the original author, as far as legal rights to modify and sell the software are concerned. As you've identified, most FLOSS business models rely on promises based on your technical or social authority (e.g., you promise to customize the software or fix the software if it breaks). Such promises are often critically important to businesses -- making them an ideal market for those who develop a FLOSS product -- but are generally not interesting to home consumers.

Since FLOSS licensing is engineered to ensure that all recipients are in an identically good position to sell (or give away) the software as you, you will not succeed in selling the software unless the set of recipients is very small. The ideal time to sell your free/open source software artifact, therefore, is before it is released, when the set of recipients is zero. Making use of a crowdfunding site like, e.g., Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or Patreon, allows you to collect funds before you release your software and everyone becomes as viable a vendor as you. You can also release major feature updates in such a fashion.

Otherwise, that's it! Other FLOSS-adjacent business models exist like selling a physical device powered by FLOSS, or support contracts, or fastest access to the latest version, but in terms of the software itself, you don't hold any rights in your FLOSS itself worth selling that cannot also be sold by another recipient who decides to compete with you. This leaves the models of customization and of selling software before release, only the latter of which is of interest to consumers.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.