12 abril 2014

Had Heartbleed showed us a new business model for Open Source?

This is what I wrote on my Twitter the day I heard about Heartbleed:

Some say this bug is the worse bug ever found, affecting the Internet as a whole, since most servers have OpenSSL. With paid and closed source software, it is easy to blame someone. At some point, there are companies who prefer paid and closed source just because of that. But what about a Free and Open Source? Who is to be blamed about the issue? I would say there are three entities to be blamed for the Heartbleed bug, each with different weights:
  1. The developer who introduced the bug is the least to be blamed. Developers make mistakes, some big, some small. This one just happened to be a small bug but with a big consequence.
  2. The QA developer who didn't see the bug is the least to be blamed. A developer reviewing code. In the end, continues to be a developer mistake like in (1).
  3. The whole IT industry (companies and developers of all kind; FOSS or not) who uses OpenSSL for free but does not pay anything for it, and although being Open Source, don't look at it, don't review commits. Just expect it to work without bugs. These are the most to be blamed. (including myself)
As the article in my tweet above says:
Jackson also says a lesson to be drawn from the Heartbleed Bug is that "we as an industry have dramatically underinvested in software integrity and generally ignored, for a security perspective, the open source building blocks on which the Internet functions. Open source is everywhere. It is the foundation of all modern software applications."
So my question to you now is: if we, the IT industry, had put more investment into the OpenSSL development team, would the chances had been higher for the Heartbleed bug to be found? Being Open Source helps, of course, but if there is no incentive (or obligation) for people to look at it, to review the code, then most people won't look at it and instead, just use it for free. This is what happened. All companies and developers are to be blamed.

Should we consider  a different business model for Open Source software? What about a model where a company (not individual) willing to use an Open Source software has to either:

  • pay for a license and/or subscription support;
  • provide resources (developers and/or QA) dedicated to the software itself;
  • discount on license/support based on contributions;
Is it time for a new business model for Open Source?
What are your thoughts?

UPDATE #1 13/04/2014
A headline on Slashdot shows that Apple is far from supporting Open Source. The news says:

Apple bundles software from the Apache Software Foundation with its OS X operating system, but does not financially support the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) in any way.

Isn't time for Open Source foundations such as Apache or Eclipse, charge for the use of their Open Source projects by companies who profit from these projects? Consider "charge" as either through money, contribution, or developers paid by these companies to work on these Open Source projects.

UPDATE #2 13/04/2014
Here is another blog post titled "Heartbleed, an ASL business model failure?" by Bruno Lowagie, original author of iText, covering similar ideas I wrote above.

UPDATE #3 14/04/2014
Interesting article aobut the weakenesses of Open Source: "Heartbleed and the misconceptions about Open Source". Here's a quote:

As Heartbleed showed, even mission critical software used by a large portion of the Internet does not necessarily have the resources to be professionally maintained. The OpenSSL team receives only about $2000 yearly in donations.

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