Revenue for Community Apps

I do not think that this discussion is about Open vs Closed Source licensing of potential Apps. Still I think this deserves a clarification. There is another topic on the licensing question which has one opinion pointed out here.

@rmehta I could imagine it wouldn’t hurt whether Frappe Inc. (as the copyright holder of frappe & erpnext) at least her interpretation of the license implications (GPL3 for ERPNext / MIT for frappe) to that thread.

MIT is clear enough.

I am sure there is enough stuff on interpretation of the GPL licenses elsewhere.

From our point of view, we would love to see everything open. But folks have to make a living too, so would leave it to individual developers.

Maybe we can build a “culture” that is supportive of open projects / apps from the community. It would not be wrong, but just un-cool to make private apps.

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that sounds a bit as if it was up to you (ERPNext Inc) to define what an App based on Frappe or ERPNext was licensed. One thing I am sure of is that is isn’t like that. And (taking into account a little what goes on in the Odoo world lately) I think it’s crucial to have as much clarity about this as possible

I think the ERPNext/Frappe world would better of with taking a clearer position (which ideally was backed by some legal insight rather then guessing or wishing) on this as well as expressing that clearly wherever the issue comes up.

… I guess you know that I don’t mean anything disrespectful, never. I am a big fan but I think we need to learn from the (foggy) situation around licensing questions in the odoo world. Also I am not a native English speaker so no one should take formulations all too serious in their details

I think Wordpress is a good example of the “culture” that Rushabh is looking into. I think app developers will fall into three main categories.

  1. Hobbyist - those who want to make modules and release them - these individuals will have no problem with GPL

  2. Enterprise - those who are making their own modules for internal use - this group will also have no problems as GPL has always allowed exceptions for internal-only apps if they want to not make everything open source.

  3. Business - those who are looking to make and sell apps along with services (these would in some ways be “partners”). This is the group that is most affected by this discussion.

From the Wordpress standpoint, all apps that are submitted into the Plugin Directory must be GPL. I would assume that the for ERPNext, to make it in the community app directory, then you must license as GPL. There are companies that sell their plugins on their own sites, which you are free to do. Some sell as GPL, and some don’t.

However, to incentivize developers to follow the open spirit of Wordpress, all speakers at conferences and “wordcamps” must release their apps/plugins as GPL. Otherwise, they are blackballed (and end up losing a lot of marketing and exposure). Rules like this will be up to the foundation to decide in the days to come.

Wordpress is a pretty good use case on how many business can be built even when the IP is open-source. They are also a pretty good study on how to deal with the open/closed issue on an open platform.


@vrms I like what @felix mentioned. And wordpress is a great community to look at.

I think we are past the stage where licenses matter and communities will be judged by how open they are and not by what license they go and how strict they are regarding the license.

If done right, open communities automatically drive more innovation than closed ones. I really agree, about giving exposure to developers who are doing open work. For example if someone asks me privately for developers to recommend, I always prefer introducing them to those who publish their work in the open and are active contributors either by helping new users or contributions.

I am joining in on this discussion quite late but.
I like @bobzz_zone idea about a 30/70 split app store. This would require the Core team to test and verify the code. A major plus for clients. I also agree with @rmehta’s concerns about clients requiring 10+ additional apps to make ERPNext work for their company. This is the major issue that my clients currently face. They need An Accounting System (say Xero), A Cash Register (Say Vend), A Calendar/Appointment system, An SMS, Email CRM App, A Local Merchant Bank Payment Gateway etc etc. All of a sudden it is costing a small retail business (my area of service) $400 per month and a load of API connection issues. This is a lot of money for a small company and as soon as they start to grow and employ someone then all the apps jack their prices up hard.

So maybe something like a traditional app store with a 30/70 split with the Core team being able to offer heavily discounted bundles of “Pro” third party apps? These bundle prices are only available to clients who sign up for 24 months and pay in advance. Other developers can buy 1 copy of an App at retail price, 5 x app at a discounted price and 100 copies and a very discounted price. These apps should be very easy to white label. This would rely on Dev honesty but if the price is right why not just pay the original App Dev. I mean we all have to eat.

In closing, If the core team can make enough money to pay third party Dev’s through their hosting business model then great. If this is going to cut into the Core team’s profit too much then we all suffer.

Also maybe a Dev can put a max income price on their app. So if its a small app to develop maybe after they receive X amount of money it gets integrated into the main ERPNext app as free and open source?

I think that a ERPNext App store should only list Apps that have been verified by either the Core team or the Foundation. The majority of Wordpress/Joomla hacks that occur each year are due to badly coded “Free” non verified plugins. This in turn reflects badly on Wordpress/Joomla.

I always thought giving something back to the original author was one the core ideas of Open Source (specifically GPL). So, I am quite surprised about your comment about what you call ‘internal-only apps’. Can you cite anything in this regards?

@vrms At this moment, I am taking the following approach, but would like some opinion about it.

  • We have a specific market to cater, so we get paid for service of customization, and we get a lot of knowledge and help from the community, so once I’m done customizing I am releasing all customization for fellow developers to use and very importantly to receive feedback if customization was faulty or good.

  • There are some cases in which we need to create a different app/module to assist in our customization and we find it might be useful, to sell within the ERPNext community, and there I see a chance to have an “Envato” like marketplace, were ERPNext root developers (@rmehta team) can audit the code and make sure it is clean code and approve it. And there you can create a commission based system with ERPNext and the developer of the app.

Opinions please do share!

could you start by explaining whether your app is based on ERPNext or frappe?

They have different licenses (ERPNext = GPL3, frappe = MIT) and that has different implications for licensing of the apps being based on each

@vrms in my case it is ERPNext only. (I have edited my previous post, thanks.)

if I am not mistaken that means your apps are GPL3 by definition.

What I am not clear about is whether you can keep them private or not. I think you are obliged to provide the code to your customers if they demand though.

As you mention you have received some help from the Community I guess, apart from the legal situation, it might be a question of whether you feel it’s right to give that back to the people who helped (I think the term ‘culture’ was brought up somewhere here in this context)

@vrms Regarding the customer, we handover the whole source code when we complete the on-site installation, as per GPL3 and ERPNext guidelines. It is the service they value much, and our selling point is the fact that it is open-source.

I completely agree with your last paragraph, and I think if ERPNext has this “App Market” managed by ERPNext root team, they can approve custom apps by their criteria, to guarantee quality code. Other developers can buy it, use it and review it. Next to the paid category (Envato style), you can have the Community part like this one, but with app releases (Wordpress style).

The main point behind this idea, is to guarantee quality in apps being sold, create revenue for both the app developer and ERPNext, so to let ERPNext grow controlled and I am sure a lot of people would love it, because it’s just awesomeness!

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GPL FAQ addresses a lot of these questions

is there any update regarding this wonderful idea ? Or the app market already exists ?

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No apps, contribute. Make your code “contributable!”. Lets build this together and not fragment the functionality.


shouldn’t we come up with a review process + some guidelines to submit to the app market ? This reduces the effort for both the core team and the developers as well.

Although i get that in the end, some functionalities should be integrated, but majority of the time, i think we still need the app to be a standalone one. Like apps that are dependent on country. So the verification, profit splitting process is necessary to motivate more developers into the field.

There should be a way to install custom fields, call events based on country. But I think all localizations should be in the core (like translations). Otherwise you risk duplication.

If you need help in contributions, please start a pull request, we will review it.

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