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The Disappearance of Open Source?

A little while ago we made the decision here at OSTraining.com to alter how our name is shown to visitors.

We changed "Open Source Training" to "OSTraining" throughout our site. The main reason? In our user testing and customer interactions we constantly found that people were confused about the phrase "Open Source". We kept on hearing comments like these:

  • "I was under the impression that Open Source training meant I wouldn't have to pay for it. I won't be coming back."
  • "It's disgusting that you guys charge for Open Source training. You're making money off the hard work of all those volunteers."

That left us with two options:

  1. Engage with each customer who raises this issue and talk them around.
  2. Remove the initial point of confusion and then teach them more about open source and its commercial aspects only after they've become a member.

We went with option 2. We realised that visitors need to know that we're great trainers first and foremost. The fact that we work with open source can wait.

The thing is, we're not alone in this. I went to look at the websites for a lot of big Open Source companies and nearly all of them mention "open source" far less than they once did. I picked five companies as examples. Here are some screenshots from archive.org compared with the 2012 version of their sites:

RedHat.com in 2004: Four Mentions

RedHat.com"

RedHat.com in 2012: One Mention

RedHat.com"

Here's the single mention, tucked underneath a menu:

redhatmenu

SugarCRM.com in 2008: 18 Mentions

I gave up pointing out all of the examples on this archived page:

SugarCRM.com

SugarCRM.com in 2012: One Mention

SugarCRM.com

Alfresco.com in 2006: Eight Mentions

Alfresco.com

Alfresco.com in 2012: Zero Mentions

Alfresco.com

MySQL.com in 2003: Fourteen Mentions

There were so many that I've only marked those at the top of the homepage.

mySQL.com

MySQL.com in 2012: One Mention

mySQL.com

Acquia.com in 2008: Four Mentions

Apologies for the low quality of this particular archive.org snapshot.

Acquia.com

Acquia.com in 2012: One Mention

Acquia.com

Possible Explanations

I wonder if "open source" is disappearing for one or more of these reasons?

  1. The failure of the open source community to explain that successful businesses are a key part of what we do.
  2. The maturation of open source companies and their ability to offer more of value than simply their code.
  3. The experience of lot of open source companies dealing with enterprise customers and realising that open source was often asked about quite late in the sales process.

What do you think? Is it a good thing or a bad thing that the word "open source" is used less by companies relying that rely on it?

 

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