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Handsontable drops open source for a non-commercial license #5831
Recently, we had a long and heated internal discussion about the licensing model of Handsontable. We noticed that building a sustainable business based on open source licensed software has become much harder. At the same time, we observe an increasing competition in the developer tools market. It is far more competitive than it was when we started this project back in 2011. Taking that into account, to ensure the longevity of Handsontable, we made a decision to change the way we distribute Handsontable.
Here is a summary of the changes that take effect starting with version 7.0.0, which is scheduled for March 6, 2019:
This is a significant change for all of us. Let us explain the reasoning behind this decision.
Our reasons behind the change
Being able to see how Handsontable has grown over the last 8 years makes us proud. Each day, thousands of developers use it to add to their apps with better data management capabilities. Countless commercial and open source projects depend on Handsontable.
However, it never developed all the traits of an authentic open source project. In an ideal world, it would gather a community of people collaborating and sharing ideas over a common goal. In such a situation you would expect the open source project to sustain itself with the help of the community. However, this wasn’t the case with Handsontable CE. Essentially, it was kept running thanks to the money earned from Handsontable Pro. Unfortunately, our observation is that the ratio of commercial to free users is about 1 to 25. Hence, the only way for us to keep investing in the product is to convert more free users into paying.
We want to grow as a company whose only mission is to continuously improve Handsontable. We have an ambitious roadmap and a passionate team. What we need is a more balanced business model that would support our long-term goals.
The new license
The new, custom-written license is for everyone using Handsontable for non-commercial purposes. Our intention is to provide free software especially to:
On the technical side, except for the license, nothing changes in terms of the availability and openness of Handsontable. It stays on GitHub and we will review pull requests when they appear.
However, we understand that you may not be able to use the new license. In such a case, you can purchase a commercial license or stay with Handsontable 6.2.2.
For Handsontable Pro customers, the only things that change are the GitHub repository and the NPM package name. The Handsontable Pro repository will be archived (made read-only).
Exciting times ahead
The decision announced today will allow us to focus better on the development of the product. We are securing reasonable funding for the company by making sure that commercial products are based on a commercial version of Handsontable. It is important for us to sustain the company in the long-term. We are excited to see what the future holds for us!
We believe in the power of authentic open source projects. We know that Handsontable wouldn’t have existed without open source libraries created by passionate developers. That is why we are excited to announce that we will be giving 1% of our monthly net profit back to open source creators. We haven’t yet decided which project to support. If you have any suggestions, please tweet them to us.
Who stands behind Handsontable
Handsontable is developed and maintained by Handsoncode, now a 14-person company which was founded by Marcin Warpechowski and Chris Spilka in 2015 in Gdynia, a charming city in northern Poland.
We are very thankful to all of our contributors, users, and customers. We are opening the second chapter in Handsontable’s history, but we know that this is only possible because of you, the people who’ve written the first chapter with us.
@MikhailTatsky a good point about the market, but it wasn't the main reason that caused this change. After all, there are a lot more competitive markets with many successful players on them. We try to focus on our own roadmap instead of chasing other companies' goals.
Cross-post from https://twitter.com/reinmarpl/status/1102563394761170944:
@Reinmar you know us and you can imagine that it wasn’t an easy or hasty decision. We put a lot of thought into that, therefore, it took us nearly a year before we finally settled on a new license in place of the MIT.
As far as I know, CKEditor is widely adopted in software licensed under GPL or alike. The best-known example of this is Drupal that uses “GPL 2 or later”. This alone puts CKEditor in a completely different context. It’s a logical move for CKEditor 5 to be compatible with their most notable customer’s software.
Handsontable is a completely different case. None of the popular open source projects use it as a dependency. Maybe it’s due to its niche-characteristics - after all, we’re talking about a data grid with a very specific design. Having said that, we didn’t feel obliged to use a specific license. We chose not to use GPL for many reasons, and here are some of them:
It is not an easy case Tobias. In most of the cases if you bundle a commercial license with anything it makes it commercial. You can (theoretically) push one part of the app in one license but mention another... but I would recommend to contact it with a legal department as Handsontable has a custom license.
referenced this issue
Mar 7, 2019
I have a question about affordability of the current Handsontable proposition.
I have a hobby/ side SaaS project where I would want to use what originally was available under CE.
Is there a pricing model for this?
Even the internal app license for 1 developer is currently unaffordable for such project – USD 590.
It would be nice to have a license attached to number of external users or some other metrics.
My point is.. I originally bought the license for USD 99 just two years ago. Since then the price skyrocketed to USD 500 per developer for internal use. I am genuinely curious how many customers you have with that pricing, but it must be enterprises.
@jontro that is an excellent idea! However, some authors don't provide any way to donate their projects (take pikaday for instance).
@adrianfish All versions of Handsontable preceding v7.0.0 are released under the MIT license. You can fork them and then use in accordance with that permissive license. Unfortunately, v6.2.2 doesn't contain Pro features such as Hiding Columns.
There are no plans for maintaining the OSS version in the future. That would make the development complex again.