Advertising in open source

So Lunduke gave another presentation on how Linux can be fixed. I was glad to see that he talked a bit about the economics of software development and why current open source models cant be relied upon for all types of software, an issue that I have gone over numerous times on this blog and elsewhere.

On the issue of software economics I wanted to address a suggestion that an audience member made regarding the use of pop-ups and ads in open source.

First of all ads have been tried in Windows shareware with little success. People are fine with ads in websites but dont want to see an ad every time they use a local application. Theyd much rather pay 10 or 20 bucks for no ads or use a free alternative that may not offer equal functionality. Using ads would also be a much harder sell if your goal is to convert Windows or OS X users. Dump your current OS and come to the platform that has ads and pop-ups! Yay!

But more importantly this is all open source which means that ads can be commented out. When Opera tried ads a while back there was a crack that circulated which would remove them. In Linuxland such cracks would be legal to distribute and easy to create. Ads in web apps can work but only because you are also targeting millions of Windows and OS X users. But even then the results can be mixed since you need either very high volume or click-through rates to achieve an adequate level of revenue. This is a lesson that iD software recently learned.

For those that would inevitably point to the Red Hat model as the answer, how many people would buy a support contract for an iphone game? Or a fat app like Photoshop when there is plenty of help online? Most of the big software companies would go bankrupt if they switched to the Red Hat model. Its only a small minority of software that can be sold through the support and service model. Most software is bought to be used and it is rare for a user to need support from the company. The Red Hat model works best for software that requires continual maintenance and updates. For something like a game that is beaten in a month it’s completely unrealistic to suggest this model.

Oh and a final comment for Lunduke who wants to make it easier for commercial companies to bring their software to Linux by encouraging standardization. This could certainly help but if your plan is to convince distros to cooperate and standardize voluntarily then it’s only a matter of time before you visit Linuxfest in a Hatredcopter.