Can You Make Money from Open Source+Open Data?

One of the interesting trends over the last few months has been the increasing activity in the field of open data. In the UK, this has been given new impetus by the incoming government, which has promised to make much more government data...

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One of the interesting trends over the last few months has been the increasing activity in the field of open data. In the UK, this has been given new impetus by the incoming government, which has promised to make much more government data available (although to what extent that will actually happen remains to be seen).

That development has led to new ways in which openness in code can interact with openness of data. Here's an interesting post on the subject that comes to this rather bleak conclusion:

In abundance of open source code, data becomes an asset and is more protected. In abundance of open data, analysis methods become more valuable, and as such more protected (meaning less likely to be released under open source license).

It's easy to think of situations where that's true. For example, social networks like Facebook and Twitter run almost exclusively on free software, including code that they have developed themselves and then made available. But the underlying *data* - about users and their interactions - represent the crown jewels that are not given out in any consolidated form.

By contrast, the data underlying Google's search engine is public - anyone can go out and crawl the entire Web (indeed, companies like Microsoft do that). But for all its support of free software, Google does not make the key part of its code - its PageRank algorithm - public.

So, it's definitely true that some of the most important players in the digital world offer either open source or open data, but not both: is it *necessarily* true, though?

I don't think so, but it comes down to what kind of company you are trying to create, and the scale of that company. If you want to found another Google or Facebook then, yes, you will probably try to keep either some of the data or some of the code closed. But if you are content with a business that is based around services, for example, using both open code and open data would be possible.

This is such a new area that I am not sure if there are any good examples out there yet, although I suspect they may be some hiding just under my low-power radar. Can anyone think of a company that offers both its code and data freely? And if it does, how does it make money? I'd certainly love to hear about them.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.

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