There are many companies that produce open source software products, and many business models that these companies can use. I'm particularly interested in companies like 280 North, the company behind Objective-J and Cappucino frameworks. My understanding of this organization's business model is that they:
- worked to develop a tool which added significant value to developers,
- released the tool under an open source license,
- built a community around the tool (which was helped by the project's open source licensing),
- created interesting demos illustrating the project's value
All of these things added value to the project, and the company that owned it. Finally, 280 North was sold to Motorola.
My question has to do with the role of software licensing in this particular business model. 280 North licensed their software projects under the LGPL, which gave them some proprietary control over how the project could be used. I believe that the LGPL is what's known as a "weak copyleft" license, meaning that the project can be linked to, without the linking code also being licensed under the LGPL; but software derived directly from the project would need to be licensed under the LGPL.
For web-oriented libraries in particular, weak copyleft, or non-copyleft licensing seems to be quite common; I can't think of a single example of a popular or well-known web-oriented library that is licensed under the GPL (or AGPL). The question then, is, how much value would a weak copyleft license like the LGPL add to a software venture like 280 North, versus a non-copyleft license, such as the BSD license or the Apache Software License?
I'd really appreciate any insight anyone can offer into this, but I'd be most interested in answers that can cite other companies as case studies or examples.