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What does the term "Open Core" software mean?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Zimbra and SugarCRM are good examples of this. The idea here is, build an open source platform or product, and then have a more professional version of it which is not open source.

From Wikipedia:

Open core is a business model where an open source product is also made available commercially with additional features.

This requires the entity releasing the commercial version to have legal rights to do so, either from the use of an open source license allowing it, such as BSD, or the assignment of copyright from all software contributors to that commercial entity when using licenses such as the GPL.

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Google browser Chrome is probably another famous example. The core "Chromium" is open source, but the browser "Chrome" is not. (Which is why Linux distribution often package "Chromium" and not "Chrome"). The advantage for the company is obvious, you can use some of the open source community resources, while retaining and edge over your competitors. – Xavier T. Jan 14 '11 at 7:40

The best definition that I found is from Linux News. Under "open core", a company will release a core software system under some open source license. A different version of the software will be sold under a commercial license and will contain more features.

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Open core model is where you're having an open-source "main" application (eg. a database) and some modules / additional functionality that is however not required to obtain for the thing to work, that is closed source (eg. storage engine).

So you can have some flexibility of open source while some parta of the application are closed.

Both open and closed elements can be free or paid.

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