In January of this year, I wrote a post urging the SaaS vendors to open source their code. In the same post, I also posted a public request to SaaS vendors to open source their app before they shut down.
I strongly encourage vendors to open source their SaaS applications much like
Wordpress, Deki Wiki or Wikidot. If not, I would urge them to consider releasing
the source code of their app under one of the open source licenses when they
shut down their service.
In that post I quoted the example of Zoto and Google Jaiku. In fact, there are many other vendors who had open sourced their app when they shut down their operations. More recently, the URL shortening service tr.im did the same. The reason I advocate this idea of using open source as a SaaS endgame has been explained in one of my old posts from the SaaS Risk Reduction Series.
Another area where Open Source can add value in the SaaS world is in building the confidence of the customers. There is definitely a huge risk in the SaaS world when customers put their data on the hands of third party vendors. There is always a possibility that a SaaS vendor can go out of business putting your data at risk. Not only the customers have to get the data out of the outgoing vendor, they also need to find a compatible SaaS application to keep going. Unless the old vendor is offering an option to export the data in an open format, the customers are in for a big trouble. Plus, many customers may want to stick with the same application due to various reasons. This is the kind of scenario where releasing the SaaS application as Open Source adds value to the customers. They could just install the app in one of the cloud infrastructure available and keep going as if nothing changed in their world. Mindquarry, a collaborative software, is a perfect example for this kind of scenario.
Yesterday, Google acquired AppJet, the company behind the SaaS application, Etherpad. They also announced that they will curtail the features of Etherpad and eventually remove all users data by the end of March. This shocked the Etherpad users and there was an outcry over how they have been taken for a ride. Today, Etherpad CEO announced on their blog that they will not restrict the features and, also, they will open source Etherpad once they work out the modalities.
We have begun planning how to open source the code to EtherPad and the underlying AppJet Web Framework. We will continue maintaining new pad creation from the EtherPad home page at least until we have open sourced the code, and work hard to make sure there will be no or minimal service disruption in the future.
In fact, Google has been very active in the open source community and it made the job of opensourcing Etherpad much easier, a fact noted by the Etherpad CEO in the blog post.
The team we are joining already gets open souce, and we hope that by releasing the code to EtherPad we will not only help you transition your existing workflow, but also contribute to the broader advancement of realtime collaboration technology.
This is a great news and it has the potential to enhance users trust on SaaS applications without worrying about the long term viability of the SaaS vendors. I hope more and more companies use open source as their endgame so that customers are empowered.