Should commercial open source vendors "own" an open source community?
I was reading Simon Phipps' recent blog on the funding of open source. In it, he talks about how open source communities work.
...there is no fiscal power that any contributor holds over others, so no-one has the right to tell the others what to do. An open source community is an example of a group of people choosing to synchronise their mutual interests, each at their own expense, for the benefit of all involved including themselves.
It reminded me of comments I've heard from others about open source vendors who "own" the associated community. I find this idea of "owning" a set of open source developers somewhat distasteful. What people usually mean when they say this, is that the open source vendor employs all or most of the committers for the projects and controls all commits to the project. In some cases the vendor chooses not to allow certain commits because it doesn't serve the needs of the vendor.
For example, a vendor may have an enterprise and a community edition for a project. In some cases they only sell support on the enterprise edition. Often they put all changes into the community edition immediately, and then pull a particular release of the community edition and do additional testing and certification and call this the enterprise version. The vendor then sells support on this enterprise edition. So far that makes sense to me.
However, I have seen a few cases where a vendor who controls all the commits will withhold fixes and patches from the community edition and only offer them to the paying enterprise edition customers. Because they control all of the committers, the vendor can then prevent others from offering the same fixes for the community edition. When that happens, it doesn't seem much like an open source community to me. It seems a lot like a proprietary vendor.
Has anyone else seen this phenomenon? If so, I'd be interested to hear what you think.
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