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One of the products I developed, is really a niche type application (2 or 3 other competitors in the market). Although for the most part, I'm the lone user of these applications, I'm thinking of selling the app right now.

My question is:

  • Because of the small market share and that it's a niche project would you advise I open or close my application?
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You mentioned you use the app. Is the app programming related or for another interest of yours? – JeffO Oct 27 '10 at 18:25
If you are thinking of selling it, I wouldn't make it open source. If you are thinking of making your product open source, I wouldn't sell it... – Wonko the Sane Oct 27 '10 at 19:04
@Jeff O - it's an engineering (non electrical - non cs non programming) type application – dassouki Oct 27 '10 at 19:12
up vote 6 down vote accepted

An open source project without contributors is really bad.

If the market is small, I doubt you will find any contributor. But I may be wrong. I don't know anything about your market.

You must do a market study.

If you can't afford it, try to release the software first. In free BETA to get more users, but you can do it as a paid edition too already.

As soon as you get users, ask them questions directly (chat with them, don't waste your time with surveys). They will like that very much, and they will always help you to improve your solution.

Ask them if they would contribute if you were open source.

Analyze the results.


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How is an open source without contributors bad but a closed source which by definition doesn't have contributors is not? – alternative Oct 27 '10 at 19:18
When you release a commercial software as open source, you hope you'll get (free) contributions from the community. No contributors means you give your software for nothing in return. It's fine for non commercial projects. – user2567 Oct 27 '10 at 19:35

I think the answer to this comes down to your personal principles, and how you feel about the concept of open source. Do you want end-users or admins looking at, and possibly changing your code? Are you concerned about people lifting your business logic, etc? My guess is that the risk of exposing intellectual property to your competitors is small, since the market is not already saturated. The other question is: what will you gain from making it open source? If the build process is complicated, and your potential customer base is small, users won't want to go through the build process anyway. Likewise, you probably won't find too many contributors, either. But if you feel like this is the sort of technology that belongs to the whole world, then I say go ahead and make it open source.

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I would if the market is made up of users who prefer open source. If the users are not developers, there is going to be an even smaller number of potential contributors.

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Most of the users won't understand what either open or closed source mean – dassouki Oct 27 '10 at 19:13

As has been mentioned, a niche application may have trouble finding contributors and an open source project without contributors is bad.

You can always easily go from closed source to oepn source, but once opened the source cannot be closed. At least, not the version that was opened. You should keep that in mind as you move forward. Also, should you decide to go open source, carefully read understand and evaluate the various open source licenses and carefully chose the one that is right for your project and you.

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That's an excellent point, I never thought about that. Or at least once closed source, I can always release the "core" part of the application as open source – dassouki Oct 27 '10 at 19:30


  • people can contribute
  • possibly keep a buzz going


  • your app is now free
  • people can rehack your code without your permission

I generally feel that academic code should be stringently open source. I feel that non-academic work should be able to be sold without guilt, with a caveat - if there is seminal work involved, it is a public service to publish the sketch of the seminal work and/or publish the source when the product is discontinued.

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