Start Me Up: On Open Source

One of the beauties of creating a startup in the early part of this century is the ability to prototype and create your application rapidly and at almost no cost other than some elbow grease. Really, the best friend of any startup these days is the world of Open Source.

Empire Avenue is a multi-technology Advertising Network. We are almost entirely committed to Open Source technology. We run on a typical LAMP instance at one end, that’s Linux-Apache-MySQL-(PHP|PERL|Python) for the unintiated. But those are not the only technologies that we are or will be using. We have Memcached, Gearman and SQLite to name a few, oh yes and probably instances of Postgres (for a former MySQL employee this might seem crazy). In terms of programming languages, we run the gamut of scripted server-side and scripted consumer-side to compiled sources.

Now, one of the things that many people complain in the Open Source world is the following: here we are using all this technology and software, why aren’t we giving back to the community? The following is then my personal commitment: Where possible we will be open sourcing as much of the code that we write wherever it does not adversely affect the business we are trying to build. If we need to modify/fix code of an open source project for certainty we will give back to the project.

We also created a new PHP framework based on just the bare essentials and featuring a pluggable architecture and a cascading system of overriding kind of like CSS. Called “Demon Core”, we fully intend to open source the entire framework (yes woohoo, yet another PHP framework, don’t get too excited). We will also open source our mail delivery systems, monitoring services and applications that we have created to run our systems. Maybe no one will care, but maybe someone out there is interested, maybe someone wants to adapt and use the technology for other reasons.

I doubt there is any Internet/Web Startup out there that doesn’t use open source. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you very much to the developers of such fantastic software as MySQL because without it we would not even be here. If big companies like to think that we should be using their software, enterprise level software comes at a cost and a price, when you want to be agile and innovative the ability to crawl into any part of the source quickly is much more important.

Will we pay for the software or services over time? Of course. Companies such as MySQL and Red Hat are businesses. Open source allows us to get to a certain level fast and at low cost, but we will evaluate our commercial relationships when we are successful and able, same as adapting and using commercial software as required to further our business.

As part of MySQL I used to do a presentation on how open source has changed the world. I would like to think this entire revolution to move applications to the web that I talked about in a previous post would have never happened without open source. The existance of open source allowed people to expand and bring their dreams to reality without having to suffer a financial cost for failure. Naturally these people have created and earned money from open source and have continued to give back to the same projects that made them successful.

We hope to do the same. Being open leads to the innovations that change the world.

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