🔥 What: Airbyte, a young and super quickly growing data integration startup just changed the license on its core from MIT to EL2, thereby moving away from open-source to a protective license that does not allow others to monetize the core.
It’s a move that’s been a somewhat common reaction from open-source-based companies fearing “commoditization”. I’ve already written a lengthy piece
about why I think these companies fall for “the tyranny of the OR”.
🐰 My perspective: Based on my research so far, this seems to be a move in the opposite direction of where the company has to go if it wants to win in this market. Especially in the early stages. Worse, they might not notice it because they got good momentum going and will be on the rise for quite some time.
Airbyte rightly realizes that nailing the “connector” problem (or data snowflake problem, as I like to call it) is key to the data integration space. But the fear of big companies providing a hosted Airbyte solution drives them in the wrong direction.
If you as a company want to have as much “connector contribution” as possible, you’ll have to create strong incentives for the developers of the connectors. That means as Tobi Lütke of Spotify puts it
, to leave all the money on the table and give it to the developers. That in turn means, getting as many consumers onto your “platform” as possible, and that means, getting widespread adoption!
Widespread adoption is if big companies come and host your product. Because you then get a lot of spreading for free. That means you will not make money on part of that, but that’s just a question of how you spin your business. Because it’s a huge huge uplift and a big incentive for your creators to create more connectors, which in turn will spin your flywheel faster.
What’s even worse is that keeping the connectors + specification open source, while closing the core means the company just opened up an easy vector of attack: replacing the core with something truly open source & using the existing connectors; Drive that by giving more money to the developers.
Finally, the pricing strategy Airbyte mentioned in that announcement differs from what I previously took as a “buyer-side” strategy. Turns out they seem to go for a “company-size” pricing model. Why this actually hinders all the profits of the company, the growth of the tool, and again opens a path to commoditization I also explore a bit in my open-source pricing article
It’s a way to go, and other companies work their closed core quite well. Indeed lots of companies don’t have any open-source. But if you’re at that crossroad, you should think really deeply about why you are actually in fear of “commoditization” (and read my post on it!), or whether it actually might be either a great opportunity or whether you can have it all, no commoditization while still having almost everything in an open core!