Ok, I know if I am Red hat or other giant and offer some support etc. I can be profitable, in fact, Red Hat is doing quite well.

However, what about a small company where I create a small program. e.g. an instant messenger for a windows or linux (just as an illustration) and I want to sell it.

But how can I sell it if it is free and everybody can download it?

Any advice?

I like the idea of FSF by Richard Stallman, however I am missing the way how to sell my software under GNU/GPL licence.

Any advice, how can I solve this problem? Any profitable small business software developers around with their opinion?

Any links or names of small companies taht I can look at and study their model of business?

  • Do you mean to spread your software for FREE or dell it to make money ? – Yusubov Jun 30 '12 at 18:24
  • By FSF definition of Free software I have to make source code available for the people (the 2nd and 3rd rule) so they can modify the software. But with this I think they will not pay me moeny if they can download the source code and compile it themselves. :( Any suggestion how to solve this problem? – Derfder Jun 30 '12 at 18:26
  • Yes, there is a way with Trail version. – Yusubov Jun 30 '12 at 18:27
  • THe problem is that I have to make the source code available for everybody gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html.en So, trail, is no option, because everybody can remove the trail code from the source and I do not think that restriction like trail are possible for free software defined by FSF :( – Derfder Jun 30 '12 at 18:29

I would suggest to make your Trial version first and spread it for FREE. After your product become solid to be commercial (may take 6-12 months) you release a commercial version where you should support your paid customers.

Selling free software is logically non-sense. You may provide support service for open-source free software and charge for it, but not sell it.

Look at my post to a similar question, that might be the thing you look for - How to promote my newly developed software

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  • Hmm, that is sad, but probably true. I thought that, maybe, I can make money and Stallman's ideas can be transfered into this world where money exist, but it seems that it's only an idea suitable for a society where money are non-existent. – Derfder Jun 30 '12 at 18:33
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    why sad? it just takes more planning and strategy than just developing a product. – Yusubov Jun 30 '12 at 18:36
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    If you do this, be sure you make it very clear that the free version is a trial version, and that the final product will not be free, or that the product is free for home users but not business users, or whatever. You'll create a lot of ill will if you suddenly change the terms from free to unfree. – Kyralessa Jul 23 '12 at 13:23
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    @Derfder Selling software is in most cases logical nonsense. In properitary software, what you offer (often but not always in return for payment) is a license that allows certain limited use of the software, but you are not selling (the rights to) the software itself. If you want to get into making money from software, make sure that you fully understand that distinction, and its implications. – user Jul 23 '12 at 13:42
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    @Derfder So if I were to buy a copy of Windows 7 on Amazon, I get full rights to it (including rights to the source code)? No. It's a commonly used expression to "buy" or "sell" software, and in casual conversation it works, but particularly with proprietary software, from a legal point of view what you are selling is a license, not a copy. Generaly speaking, the copy is incidental and only needed so that you can exercise the rights you obtain under the license. – user Jul 23 '12 at 14:15

I'd think most of what I say in my answer to "how do I maximize exposure given limited time and no budget" would still be applicable: you basically have a slightly better budget, AND probably at least some time. Some most of the recommendations would apply.

I'm not sure if I should duplicate the content here (seems like a bad idea, especially considering it's a rather large answer), so just follow the link.

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