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A look inside Jahia's 'pay or contribute' open-source model

Open-source companies are always looking for ways to encourage outside contributions: Jahia may have stumbled upon a winning strategy.

One of the hardest things to create in open-source software is a project that attracts significant outside development contributions. While Mozilla can count on 40 percent of its development deriving from non-Mozilla sources, most open-source projects are lucky to get 4 percent from outside contributors--or 0.04 percent.

This is why I find Jahia's licensing model so intriguing. Jahia is an open-source Web Content Management (WCM) vendor that competes with proprietary solutions like Vignette (OpenText) and Interwoven (Autonomy). Unlike most open-source WCM systems, however, Jahia has set up a rewards program to encourage contributions, with significant discounts on a commercial subscription offered in exchange for significant contributions to the Jahia code base, dubbed a "Contribute or Pay" program, as outlined in Jahia's licensing white paper.

No triple charging: Those who contributed based on the JSEL get the software of the next release and all subsequent releases that contain the contributed feature for free within their standard subscription. This is fair, because it avoids commercial contributors getting charged three times: first for paying Jahia to develop and include the new feature, then for obtaining the new release that includes it and finally for maintaining it. Unfortunately, triple charging is the typical business practice for proprietary alternatives to Jahia. Contributors to Jahia EE only pay when they purchase or renew their support subscription, which already includes Jahia software at no additional cost.

Jahia is trying to reward customers and contributors, ensuring that they only have to pay once--in cash or in kind--for the value they contribute to Jahia. Specifically, those who contribute code to Jahia "save on maintenance costs upon approval by Jahia," or they can pay Jahia to write the suggested contributions and won't be charged for maintenance on those additions.

I reached out to Tristan Renaud, vice president of sales and corporate development at Jahia, for further commentary, and will post it once I receive it. For example, how does Jahia determine the value of contributions? And how much will it discount subscription services in exchange for sponsored "contributions" that a customer pays Jahia to develop?

Even without the details, however, I find the approach refreshing. It seems like Jahia is offering a good "quid pro quo" model, as Stephen Croisier suggests, and one that other open-source companies should consider.

Disclosure: Jahia is a competitor to Alfresco, my employer, as well as a potential partner.


Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.