The ColdFusion community is aflutter with news that Blue Dragon has gone open source. Many other voices have chimed in on this. But I feel like I have something different to say.
Regardless of the any business gains that Blue Dragon gets from doing this, I don’t think the community will get a tremendous benefit from this.
You see, there is this stream of logic that goes something like this:
- ColdFusion has a small market share, and it is shrinking
- ASP.NET, PHP, and Ruby (on Rails) have much more of the market
- PHP and Ruby (on Rails) are Open Source and free.
- ASP.NET is zero cost on top of something else we forget you have to pay for
- ColdFusion would gain market share if it was open source.
- By “open source” we actually mean “free.”
I think this line of reasoning comes from people that base their request for opening up ColdFusion on what they think the rest of the web development world wants. They think it is all about cost. There are reasons that other people prefer PHP or Ruby (on Rails) or ASP.Net. Not all of those reasons have to do with ColdFusion’s cost.
- Some people just have to do many small CRUD apps. For just this specific subset of CRUD apps, Ruby on Rails is a better solution than a default install of ColdFusion.
- Some people want to build around one or several of the many open source applications written in PHP. Why use ColdFusion when you just have to write a few extra PHP pages.
- Some people have to work with proprietary Microsoft technology. With the exception of Exchange, ColdFusion isn’t as good as ASP.Net for that.
- Alright – some people don’t like proprietary solutions of any kind. At least we know they’re not using ASP.Net.
I think the ways in which ColdFusion can build inroads around these solution-needs are:
- More community support around the existing scaffolding solutions for ColdFusion
- More open source solutions written IN ColdFusion
- More Adobe support around proprietary interfaces that draw people away from ColdFusion.
- Acceptance of the fact that just because some people won’t buy proprietary solutions doesn’t mean they shouldn’t exist.
Notice “open source ColdFusion” wasn’t on that list. I don’t think it ever will be.
I don’t know which of the reasons holds the biggest opportunity for ColdFusion to gain market share. You’d need to do surveys and ask current and defecting customers a whole bunch of questions. That sounds like a job for the marketing department of Adobe. Hmmm. Didn’t Adobe add tags for getting information about database’s schema a little easier? Didn’t they fund RIAForge? Didn’t they add code for calling .NET assemblies and the CFExchange tags?
I think Adobe has already decided which customers they are going to go after. Right or wrong, they’ve stuck with selling their current solution, and tailoring it to get those three groups. I think what happens to Blue Dragon, ColdFusion, and market share will do a good job of sorting out who’s right here. I’m betting on Adobe.
Oh, why did I write “Ruby (on Rails)” everywhere? I get annoyed when people fail to understand the distinction between the language and the framework. That being said, I think that Ruby on Rails is the right thing to call the ColdFusion competitor, as it is the entire solution that attracts web developers to it, not just the language. As a further aside, I think the total solution that ColdFusion provides is the special sauce of ColdFusion, not just the language.