Last year, OSBC conference attendees voted on their favorite model, and they chose the dual-licensing model: That is, when a company builds a tool or application, it could offer the same bits under both the GPL license to open-source projects and another, more business-friendly license to enterprise customers who don’t want GPL restrictions.

How quickly things change. This year, the conference attendees turned their back on dual-licensing and voted Freemium as their favorite business model.

The Freemium model is all about creating great free open-source software that has one or more weaknesses that will inspire serious customers to purchase a paid version. For example, the free version may be difficult to manage on multiple servers, but the paid version will include a GUI administration console.

Are either of these models morally bankrupt from the free software perspective? Of course not. Even Richard Stallman sold archives of free software back in the 1980s in order to fund his Lisp machine project. Selling free software isn’t antithetical to the idea of “free software.”

After all, when you’re building out systems in development, you still don’t need to buy licenses just to take the software for a test drive. In the end, the secret to selling open-source software is to get that money to fund development any which way you can. Just don’t forget to offer paid services and paid support. That’s the classic model, which consistently took second place in both years of voting.

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