OpenAds and the role of community in commercial open source

OpenAds is going after Google, and letting its community lead the way.

OpenAds is one of my favorite open-source companies. It's disrupting a market that is, itself, disrupting other markets. A match made in heaven.

But Scott Switzer, founder of the company and erstwhile CEO, is not taking its future for granted, and has left many key decisions to the OpenAds community, as noted in This is what separates a successful open-source project from a project with an open-source license and proprietary mindset.

Switzer says listening to the community is the most important aspect of commercializing an open source project. "Take advice and direction from them in terms of new product features and even strategically positioning your company. We've not yet fully monetized Openads, and we've even ruled out some commercial options, because we spent a long time making sure all the features the community wanted were there. Monetizing an open source project is still an art, and there are people that understand the value of community and they understand the fact that when you're the leader of a great project, that's something incredibly special. Surround yourself with people who understand that from an investment perspective, and from a coworker perspective."

If only more commercial open-source companies operated under this same guidance. Too many open-source companies operate as quasi-proprietary vendors, open in license only (and that often only halfway).

While code is obviously significant, it's critical to be transparent in more ways than code. Openness is part of the ethos of open source, and the best open-source companies are open from code to culture to roadmap get the picture.

OpenAds has a bright future ahead of it. Good thing the community is, in part, steering the ship.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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