GPL – Can it be Commercial?

GPL is the short form for “General Public License“. GPL is an open source license that has been the most popular type of license with the open source community. Very popular software developers and companies have embraced the GPL license for their products recently.

The term “free” is often associated with GPL. Its… GPL is the short form for “[B][URL=”http://www.gnu.org”]General Public License[/URL][/B]”. GPL is an open source license that has been the most popular type of license with the open source community. Very popular software developers and companies have embraced the GPL license for their products recently.

The term “free” is often associated with GPL. Its completely valid to have this association and this is one of the USPs for GPL growth. So what does “free” mean? “Free” in GPL means “Freedom”, the freedom for unrestricted distribution and further development of the GPLed commodity or product. “Free” does not necessarily mean free of cost.

The goal of GPL is to allow full freedom to enhance the product further, without any restrictions. GPL does not talk about commerical aspects of the products. The GPL license governs distributions and developments. Thus a GPL product can be commerical or non-commercial. Usually GPL products are non-commercial, but businesses and developers can charge a flat fee or subscription based fee for GPLed products too, thus making it Commercial GPL. This is usually for the additional services, support , customizations or for even providing access to download the products.

I personally welcome GPL, as it is good for the products. GPL allows anyone to take any GPL licensed product and resume its development and distribute it. Now this has both advantages and dangers to both developers and customers. But for businesses and developers who spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on the products, GPL creates a sense of in-security in them.

With GPL, business models get more service oriented. The revenue model shifts from a point of sale mode to subscription mode, with revenue stream predominantly through support services (commercial GPL). Well can businesses sustain the new model of commercial GPL? Till now, there is no clear Yes to it. There are a number of businesses who have been successful with commercial GPL, but they are corporate funded or corporate themselves who have the ability to invest in large and can even sustain losses to an extent.

What about the plight of small businesses who run with hardly a handful of full time employees. Can they sail through this commercial GPL model? The answer lies with the customers and the rapport that the small businesses have built with these customers. Small businesses can still be successful with commercial GPL, if they are serious about support services and start giving more values to customer.

The mantra is to connect and bond with customers and build solutions, based on the products for them. This may well be the future path for JV-Extensions too!