Do Open Source Companies *Really* Support Free Software?

Asterisk, a PBX, telephony engine, and telephony applications toolkit, is one of open source best-kept secrets. As with many open source projects, there is a company that has been set up to provide support, Digium.

Here's its latest press release:

Digium, Inc., the Asterisk Company, today announced the general availability of support subscriptions for open source Asterisk. The software, which Digium’s founder and chief technology officer, Mark Spencer, created and released under the open source GNU General Public License (GPL) 10 years ago, is now the world’s most pervasive open source telephony platform.

The new Asterisk support services allow organizations of any size to leverage the power of open source Asterisk with the confidence that their system is supported by a world-class support organization. The support subscriptions provide technical support, hardware replacements and substantial discounts on training programs to enable users to take full advantage of the power of the Asterisk platform.

Well, so what? you may well ask. An open source company is offering support for free software: isn't that what nearly all open source companies do?

Well, no.

There's a subtlety here that's worth underlining. As the press release goes on to explain:

“Digium’s new subscription services give Asterisk users the best of both worlds—they can download and use Asterisk free of charge, as always, and now they can also call on Digium for technical support when needed,” said Spencer. “We think the combo of free and open, with support, is going to appeal to many of our most technical users. The Asterisk community has long been a source of great expertise through online forums, and now we’re supplementing that with the ability to call us, 24x7, for access to our Asterisk experts.”

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