Upverter is an online schematic layout program. Among several features, it allows a group to work on a project collaboratively. They were a big presence at the Open Hardware Summit, and have been marketing themselves as the ideal solution for open hardware collaboration. That sucks, here’s why:
This is a new class of project we’re calling closed source vampires. These outfits jump on the open source/open hardware bandwagon for venture capital, PR, and profit, but they don’t participate equally. They exploit work from the open source community for profit, but keep their special sauce to themselves.
In this case, Upverter is free to use for open hardware, but their source code is totally closed. They want to use the hard work of open source developers to build buzz for their company, but keep their own stuff closed. This is at best a side step from free-but-not-open Eagle, but with a dash of user exploitation.
If this is a platform for open source, why not make it open source too? We asked the same question of CircuitBee, a free-but-not-open online viewer for PCB and schematic files, and several similar offenders. The responses are usually similar.
“We worked hard on it and don’t want someone to seal our work”
Yeah, all the open source developers you want to use to promote your platform worked pretty hard on their stuff too. If you think reuse of your work is akin to theft, then you don’t understand open source – stop using it to market yourself.
“We need to profit to support our software as service. Servers aren’t free ya know!”
Sure, but open source in no way precludes you from making a profit. In fact, you might actually get a lot of value back from the community.
“Nobody wants to run a software as service cloud themselves anyways, so there’s no reason to open source it”
Irrelevant. Even if 99% of people never crack open the source, like most OS hardware or software projects, that’s not the point. Everyone still benefits. The potential to make more and better open source in the future benefits the community you’re trying to exploit.
As always, we couldn’t care less if a company trades in closed source. Most do! We have no problem using free tools until an open alternative is available. But if your PR troll bangs a press release through our contact form touting your wholesome open source goodness, you had better be sure your house is in order.