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Drupal Appstore

Drupal Appstore – more money for all of us or the breakup of the community

Presently the drupal community is in an uproar, triggered by Robert Douglass' announcement of his session at the Drupal Dev Days in Brussels "Sell your code: Announcing the DroopyAppStore". The hashtag #drupalappstore was established quickly and commented on extensively.

Important blog-posts concerning the issue are:

What's an App Store?

Apple invented the App Store and one billion downloads later you have to admit that it works well. Apples' apps come in handy for mobile phones, so what exactly could apps do for Drupal? Maybe modules from dupal.org could be sold. Or other modules. Maybe feature packages or installation profiles could be sold. We don't know what Robert has planned for his session. Interestingly enough he used the term “droopy” instead of Drupal. That could be a hint that the use of the brand name “Drupal” might pose a problem.

Recently Wordpress opened up it's own App Store selling GPL modules, which can be downloaded from the net for free. I leave it up to you to google them.

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To sum it up, there's a lot of commotion and discussion about this but no reliable information.

Earning money with Open Source

You got to be able to earn money with Open Source products and developers need to get paid for their work. Anything else is out of the question. However, both concepts – Open Source and commercial software - form a sort of symbiosis if we take Open Source serious and don't withhold the knowledge. The sharing of knowledge is not going to foster competition but serves as a proof of solid work and the determination to get better. That's why you try to expand your Drupal skills and consider each successful Drupal project as self-advertising.

You can earn money with community work. You put a lot of time into the development of a module, you share it with the community, that directly or indirectly earns money with it. Usually this money does not end up in your hands. You might get donations but they don't cover the expenses of the months it took to develop the modules. At best the community contributes some time back to you. And that works well with Drupal but it's doesn't pay the bills.

In other words: to earn money with Open Source products you need to offer a service around the products. That would allow you to have a regular income through your modules. Indeed small modules granting quick and easy help might persuade people to pay 1.99€. Multiply that by 1000 per month and you get a handsome sum. Then you pass on part of the money to a non-profit organization like the Drupal Association or the Drupal Initiative and everybody is happy.

In the Open Source sector you usually earn money through offering service around your products. Selling modules might not be such a good idea because they are developed by many people. A better idea could be wrapping up and selling a service package. I'm talking about Drupal features and installation profiles. A feature is a particular Drupal configuration i.e. a gallery or a calender management system. An installation profile consists of diverse features and is a complete Drupal installation. The main idea is to design a special and standardized Drupal-version, which otherwise would have to be done manually for each new client.

Breakup of the community

Who owns the Drupal source code? And who owns the more than 7,000 modules? It's impossible to resolve this issue clearly. Consequently it's impossible to say who gets the money from the sales of the modules. Moreover the code of the modules is open source. Even if the App Store was opened new modules would have to be written because it would be a no-go to just copy the existing ones and sell those. Who could possibly keep track of the infringements and persecute them? It would be one big disaster for the community because it would completely undermine the community spirit.This has happened to Joomla and it was a solemn catastrophe.

So, are features the solution? Maybe they are. But only if selling features doesn't result in everybody selling their own products and losing sight of the common project. This could lead to a disintegration of the community. And how do you handle conflicts between developers working for two different distributions who are unwilling to work together? All this will end in turmoil, envy and fear in the community. “fear is the path to the dark side. fear leads to anger. anger leads to hate. hate leads to suffering. ~ yoda

How I see it

Personally I tend to say that I am against the Drupal App Store because I don't know where this will take us apart from the community drifting apart. I also wonder who's gonna own and operate the store. In case it would be the Drupal Association, for me it would be as if Drupal now belongs to the USA and is distancing itself from Europe. And if on top of that just one company decided to go it alone. I guess I'd call it a bad idea. And I don't think that Acquia is that foolish.

However I am not totally against it, either, because I think Robert Douglass is a very clever person. He probably wants to share something meaningful with the community. And I don't think it will be an advertising event for the droopy shop.

Maybe we should all go back to focusing and working on Drupal and not get all worked up with fears and fights. Let's wait and see what really happens. We can still fork Drupal tomorrow ;-)