Thursday, October 16, 2008

Is Firebird Poor?

This is a continuation of previous post about Firebird. Now I’d like to consider some facts about money flows around Firebird.
First of all, a good question is how much money is being consumed by Firebird.
The only public information is a set of reports from Firebird Foundation. The last public report is from 2007 year: http://firebirdsql.org/ffoundation/plenary/page_finance_agm2007.pdf
Full set of FF documents is here: http://firebirdsql.org/index.php?op=ffoundation&sub=docs

Well, you can look at numbers in these reports yourself and make conclusions too. Probably many readers of this blogs have annual income more than whole FF has.
I don’t know the numbers from private companies who pay staffers for work at Firebird (part of full time), but I can suppose that their spending is in the same range.
Comparing this amount with money spent by different ventures or IT companies into other open-source databases and their forks we can say it’s low. I don’t speak here about MySQL investments and impressive final sale, but there some examples for PostgreSQL with several million investments (check Google for “PostgreSQL investments”).
There can be a lot of speculations about nature and intentions of venture capitalists and so on, but it seems quite obvious that our “bird” does not eat enough to grow fast enough…
But let’s get back to the initial question - Is Firebird Poor?
In terms of cash flow I think we need to say - yes, Firebird as virtual entity is poor.
But we need also to estimate the assets that Firebird has (since it’s a virtual entity I need to say “can leverage” or “is possible to increase money flow for people involved”, but I hope that “Firebird has” is clear enough). If someone has valuable assets – sure he is not poor .

Let’s start with web-site as it’s a well known asset for everyone.
Since firebirdsql.org has 5000+ visitors highly concentrated on Firebird and related areas, it can be a good source of money.
Let’s imagine a shop at this site, something like shop.firebirdsql.org with featured products at the main page of firebirdsql.org. General shareware rule gives us an empiric ratio of visit to sales as 100 to 1. Consider we have 50 sales of a software everyday (actually there can be more sales since there will be more products for different areas of Firebird-related things), 20 from featured products at main page and 30 from general shop, with average price USD$200. Getting 50% average commission from featured products and 30% from general shop will produce USD$200*20*%50 + USD$200*30*%25 = USD$ 3500. It’s per day, and ~1.2mln USD per year. Looks impossible? Ok, even if you imagine the hardest crisis for the next year, you can divide it by 10, so it can be 120k USD, the same as Foundation gathers from members, sponsorship and donations.
Many users of Firebird are also Delphi/C++ Builder users. Let’s ask them to buy from shop.firebirdsql.org to support Firebird and get sales commission from Embarcadero – here is another hundred of USD$k.
Advertising is also a good point to sell. Imagine the advertising of Oracle at some page? Looks abnormal? Really? Probably you richer than IBM – look here: http://www-03.ibm.com/systems/x/solutions/infrastructure/database/oracle.html
(This way firebirdsql.org also can sell InterBase, by example. No? Still feel you are richer than Mr. Gates?). And this is only the first point. Having community in several hundreds people it’s a good first step to build some nice social network sponsored by advertising (don’t forget that Google is an advertising agency and… they feel good :-) )
There were some opinions that firebirdsql.org is a technical site for project news and stuff only and it should keep spirit of open-source development, and if someone wants to make a shop he need to build it at some other place and so on…

Well, personally I don’t see anything bad in going in a quick way to get money for Firebird and use valuable asset in the most efficient way. I am pretty sure Firebird users will be happy with all-in-one site and they will understand and support the reasons of implementing Firebird-related shop near the downloads and news pages of Firebird.
But, of course, it’s possible that I am just not rich enough and I think too much about money… may be true open-source believers should work in basements and hope for … raise of machines? Come into a fortune from the rich uncle? Donation from mr. Abramovich?

From the organization point of view, to keep intact the independence and distributed nature of Firebird, shop activity (site redesign, orders processing, money flow management) can be outsourced to some company-operator.
The company-operator should be chosen at the open tender to correspond to required conditions and should sign service-level agreement to implement and reflect all important aspects of this shop’s operation.
Who need to perform this tender? What are the conditions? Who will decide how to spend money and there to invest it? (now there is no such question, because all amount is completely consumed by research and developments, but with $1M per year… hmm, Firebird can afford some marketing activities too)
Obviously the main source of decisions should come from current administrators of Firebird project. This will require some courage and will of power, but I am sure they have it. Some people can say that Firebird Foundation can play this role, but, sorry, it is a non-commercial organization. I am the member of Firebird Foundation, but my opinion is that Firebird entity need to set (and achieve) very specific business-oriented goals, such as growth of user base and increasing money flows for R&D and marketing, aggressive competition and so on.
Open source is good when it’s quickly developing and spreading over the world (like IBM does :-) ), but it seems that currently Firebird does not look like a very successful open-source project. I would say the numbers of users and installations are much lower than it can be.
I don’t intend to offence any Firebird Foundation members or Committee, they do a great job, but I truly believe that Firebird need to have more business-oriented management which will rule their assets more efficiently.

And let’s back to the assets :-) In the next part I’ll share some ideas how to use Firebird brand-name (which is currently owned by FF), source code and millions of installations to get several millions $ more for Firebird growth.

5 comments:

dave said...

If you don't ask you wont get. Having an opportunity to give is often a privilege.

Ariel said...

Were did you get from the visits to sales ratio of 100 to 1? I don't think that's possible. Perhaps it's the ratio of downloads to sales? Then you would have something like 10000 to 1 for visits to sales.

Dmitry Kuzmenko said...

to ariel:
in theory visits to sales ratio may be about 1000/1. But in reality it can be better or worse. Based on our (IBSurgeon) experience, with InterBase/Firebird this ratio is very good.

Almad said...

Suggestions:

* Make Firebird site stylish. It's crap for todays standards and yes, it matters.
* Begin creating php-like documentation (html, heavily hyperlinked, with comments, allow contributions).

Those two are blockers, from my experience.

daniel said...

I agree with the shop idea. A shop that has feature products is good both for Firebird Foundation and Firebird users, because they learn about new Firebird-related products that may save them months of programming. Although I'm in touch with Firebird for around 5 years now I learned about FBScanner just a few days ago.
I second Almad, too, that the site needs a graphical overhaul. It matters! People often judge a product from their website. If it is clean, swift and looks high-quality, the product most likely is good, too.