HTML5 mobile apps development open source

Everyone who makes products geared towards developers has the same problem. Developers like open source tools, but they also need to have confidence that the team behind the tools will be around for a while. So you have to both give your code away and simultaneously monetize it. And then, of course, there is marketing. If an app falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does it even exist?

famo.us, a front-end JavaScript app platform that I have been following, is announcing today that when they launch (no firm date on this yet) their software will be free for developers and designers to use and open source. This second point, as I suggest above, is a big deal. Open source to developers is like free to app consumers. It removes the impediment to giving something a try and—most importantly in the case of developers—it gives them security to know that if they invest their time and smarts in the code, they can always fork it in their own direction if they disagree with the direction that the main branch is going.

If you are a commercial entity—a business, not some information-wants-to-be-free techno-libertarian dot org—why on earth would you want to give other developers (and other businesses) the ability to do this? Because it works. Open source software enables developers to experiment in a very detailed way without asking for permission. Code first, ask permission later is part of the hacker ethos because it’s just more efficient that way. It used to be that businesses would have long, protracted negotiations around the possibility of working together on a product. Much time and money is spent on the software equivalent of a blind date. In the open source world, like in the start-up world in general, developers build application with each others code and if something hits big, than there’s something to talk about in terms of business.

But the great thing about open source is that if all is spent is a developer’s time (and the time of buddies he or she can cajole into helping) there is more room to take risks. If you are the person or company that wrote the original software, you can learn a lot even from the abject failures and you may want to hire or partner with those responsible for the great successes. And all of this activity, if you can elicit it, builds a community around the product—and eventually a market.


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