WordPress is a prime example of how an open-source software project can create a massive ecosystem of thriving businesses that are both large and small. Being open, combined with an awesome community, is what made WordPress what it is today. It’s mind-boggling that Wordpress websites make up 40% of the entire web. Just think about that.
WordPress’ superpower is that it’s open. More than the core project itself, it’s all of us that show up and build amazing products and services with and for WordPress. None of that would have happened if WordPress was built in a restrictive way. Sadly most software is built behind closed doors.
Being open goes beyond just a software license.
Open-source deals with how the code is licensed. However, the spirit of open source goes much deeper. I can only speak for myself, but plenty of folks release code open source and don’t understand the spirit of what being open means.
I choose to live both my life and business radically open. I have no interest in building a business that is not open by default. Practically speaking, that means there is no secret sauce to Anchor Hosting. Want to run a web host reselling business like myself? Go for it. I freely share what I’ve learned. Want to use my tools and services to do it? Well, everything is fully open with the MIT license. I’m not hiding anything.
There is more to be gained by freely sharing than by being restrictive. Ideas are meant to be liberated not held back, and with that, there is nothing that cannot be created. Our time here on planet earth is limited, so why would we spend a moment of it working on something that is confined, or worst, never useful by anyone else?
There is nothing stopping anyone from taking everything I’ve built and directly competing with me. Do I care? Not at all, and I encourage you to go for it. There is more than enough customers for both of us. Did you forget that 40% of the entire Internet needs WordPress web hosting? Be the creative you were meant to be.
Having another business around who is empowered by the code that I wrote is a huge win. It’s only going to make each of us stronger either through competition or collaboration. The underlying product and code that runs our businesses will be forced to get better.
Being open is the reason business should exist.
I hear so many excuses for why a business can’t make its product’s code open source. From “I need to build a sustainable business first” to “If I do that I won’t make money.” Being open and transparent is a choice. It’s best to start something that you truly believe in than to pursue someone else’s truth. This will have profound consequences down the road. From the customers served to the way that you build and grow your company.
Being open always leads to new opportunities.
Part of being open is helping others and being generous. You’re just naturally going to help others who follow you, and helping others with no strings attached is only going to lead to good things. Doors will be open, personal influence will grow, and there will be new customers around every corner. Growth should be a byproduct of how you do business, not the primary motive for what you do.
Being open is inevitable.
Given an environment where competition is allowed, any product or service which is closed will eventually be recreated by someone with open ideals. I can’t imagine a world where this won’t happen. Apple, your days are numbered. Your polished ecosystem is not because of your high level of restrictions and closed nature. Sure it might be easier to create a polished experience when everything is controlled, but over the next 100 years is it really sustainable? You will be forced to open your ecosystem for others or try and deal with the wave of innovation that is coming from the free world. This will take time and in some cases requires legal action to allow competition to flow properly.
Software engineers and folks building solutions desire things only an open ecosystem can provide. Autonomy, ownership, and transparency are all possible when products and services are built in the open. Is a polished experience possible in such an unrestricted matter? Yes, but not going to be easy. However, I believe it is worth pursuing.