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Postgres Professional 2022 Predictions: 2022 will mark the beginning of the end of the open source software model we treasure

vmblog predictions 2022 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2022.  Read them in this 14th annual series exclusive.

2022 will mark the beginning of the end of the open source software model we treasure

By Ivan Panchenko, Co-founder and Deputy CEO of Postgres Professional

As someone involved in the open source software movement since the beginning, I treasure its ideals and community spirit. I believe that open source has been instrumental in driving innovation and enabling more people worldwide to benefit from the computer revolution. Today, it's clear that change is coming. Some changes may be helpful, and others won't be. In either case, we need to track what is happening and ensure that businesses relying on open source understand how the changes will impact them. Here is what I see happening in 2022.

Open source software was originally conceived to bring developers together to create great products faster, with a lower barrier to entry for the users. This model works if there are enough users, some of whom need to improve the product, some of whom contribute to it. For popular products, this produces a stable community, making the product itself more reliable and providing a faster development cycle.

In most cases, attempts to base a business on open source by releasing commercial enterprise versions do not break the open source model. Moreover, such businesses help develop the primary open source product, providing it with significant software contributions, solving the problems of enterprise customers.

However, we're seeing a dramatic shift in where open source revenue is going, as the big cloud providers - Amazon, Microsoft, and Google - are raking in most of the profits without a comparable contribution to the open source product or community. If they contribute, this solves their own problems, not the users' ones. Cloud usage of the software makes it irrelevant for the users if the source code is open or not. Since the users cannot contribute, this breaks the open source model. Also, a cloud provider usually does not respond to the wishes of the users to improve the product because the provider's interests differ from the user's. So the open source usage model completely changes and may stop working.

As a result, free and open source software (FOSS) developers have already started modifying their licenses to restrict the cloud usage of their products. We expect this tendency to grow. The developers will also ensure that they receive a fair share of revenue and that the product receives user contributions. The possible consequences of this, some of which we will likely see appearing widely in 2022, include more restricted licenses that may prevent adoption by enterprises or increase costs, thus making open source a less viable option and slowing adoption. This, in turn, could cause open source communities around old products with open licenses to shrink and result in fewer new open source communities getting started. Sadly, this could significantly impact customers, especially startups and small businesses, as they see open source products becoming less functional and more restrictive, with more (and more expensive) forks being developed to support advanced features, creating confusion among users.

Is this truly the beginning of the end of open source software? I hope not, but some of these forces may be very difficult to push back against. We will continue to watch these trends and report on what we find. Stay tuned.



Ivan Panchenko 

Ivan Panchenko is the co-founder and deputy CEO of Postgres Professional, the company that makes PostgreSQL enterprise-ready. A PostgreSQL enthusiast and well-known member of the PostgreSQL community, Panchenko works closely with enterprise customers and helps define product strategy. Panchenko is a professional astrophysicist and a software developer who started developing PostgreSQL-based applications in 1998.

Published Tuesday, February 01, 2022 7:30 AM by David Marshall
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