Yawn, Blue Dragon Goes Open Source

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.

14 thoughts on “Yawn, Blue Dragon Goes Open Source

  1. Ryan, I think one of the bonuses of this is the licensing of BD. Whatever my thoughts on the engine, it means I can develop an app, and package everything up including the engine as a WAR and deploy it, without problems with the license.

    Now, of course, I would have to have the right servlet container to deploy it to, but that is another rant!


  2. I disagree that cost is the direct reason that PHP or RoR are so popular compared to ColdFusion, because I doubt that any but a small portion of site owners have ever actually compared the cost of different application servers. Instead, I think they’ve looked at two things: what’s available in their hosting plan, and what languages the developers they know are familiar with.

    In my opinion, CF needs to be put on many more web hosting accounts for people to even consider it, regardless of cost.


  3. Drew, I respect your opinion, and I believe a small segment of the communinity might take advantage of that, I don’t think that really lights the community on fire.

    Who knows, maybe it will be used in ways I can’t fathom, but I’m very skeptical of this.


  4. I agree with you Terrence, this is just not that much news. I don’t expect to see much impact from the change in the short term. I think it’s probably more of an attempt to utilize cfeclipse to get some additional distribution of the BD engine. Then they will hope to use that the build a little product tie-in.


  5. FWIW open-source != free!!!

    @Mike – where does CFEclipse come into this picture??

    I could really care less about market share (though I thought Adobe said CF was growing?).

    I do care about having the option to deploy a 100% open-source stack and not having to worry about licenses, etc. It will be interesting to see how things go…


  6. @Jim – I was acknowledging that open source does not equal free when I said ColdFusion would gain market share if it was open source.
    By “open source” we actually mean “free.”


  7. I’m skeptical that much will change too, but I totally agree with Jim that there are plenty of people who care about deploying apps on a 100% open-source stack (or a platform that has no licensing costs). People outside the CF community are far less likely to ever choose to implement an open-source application written in CF because you have to pay for the license, whereas open-source apps from other platforms don’t have this problem. This could also be a chance to get developers from the “other” side…


  8. I think the great part about this announcement is that the “open source ColdFusion” fan boys will now have to put up or shut up. Think Adobe’s CF would be a better product and win market share as open source? Great, prove it! Make BD open source totally kickass (To paraphrase Cartman)! I now expect legions of CF developers to start working on BD immediately, and post success after shining success to the blogosphere.

    Of course, there’s the *very* slight possibility that it won’t turn out like that. In which case I’m sure the fanboys will attempt to move the goal posts and insist it was Adobe’s fault because they didn’t [insert open source buzzword here] the [insert ColdFusion framework jargon here] and if they did, there would have been total success – oh what an opportunity Adobe missed to increase market share!

    Get at it guys – I expect BD to be dominating this time next year.




  9. Just ran across this post, one thing that we forget is how easy and fast it is to create a CF app. OpenBD may open things up for other devs in other languages to come on board and start writing more OS software. I just looked at the steering committee and it looks like a great list of devs who IMO will help to create more of what we need as developers.

    I look forward to the OpenBD, I think it’s a plus for everyone!


  10. First thing I’m gonna do is fix all the stupid idiotic bugs that STILL exist in CF (forms tags etc).

    Next thing I’m gonna do is replace the built-in expression and CFScript evaluator with Jython.


  11. This is great news and I am psyched about NA’s decision to open source BD. I really think this will expand the install base and community!


  12. I don’t agree, with a free version doors open to projects where having an overhead on the product doesn’t make sense so you do it in PHP or .NET.


  13. Ryan, it’s a good news for me, but I a little bit skeptic with Open Source. many open source have many Bugs (I think because of Open Source=Free) so People do not deep care with the development.


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