Open source vs Free

Sep 20, 2007

Today I was asked to make a copy of a static html website for someone, without having FTP access. The logical solution here was to find a website scraper program and use that to grab a copy onto the local machine.

Commercial

My first Google search started with "website scraper software". I downloaded a couple of examples which seemed to work well, but they were wanting US$70 or thereabouts, and I didn't see the need to bring out my wallet for a one-off job on a small website.

Free

Next stop was "website scraper software free". Unsurprisingly, this search brought up a whole pile of commercial products with a free trial available. While some of these were manufactured garbage websites, some were legit software programs, but nothing was free.

Open source

My last search was for "website scraper software open source". Almost straight away I settled on a package called HTTrack website copier which did exactly what I needed and is completely open-source and free.

Nothing is free, but there is OS

It occurred to me that the word free has some fairly nasty connotations to it. In my experience, nothing is free in this world, and anything that says it is free is probably trying to get a dollar out of you one way or another.

Open source is a bit different. Whenever I see an OS package that is licensed under GPL, LGPL, BSD or other popular licenses, I know exactly what I'm getting and what I can and can't do with the software.

If my experience with searching for a bit of free software is anything to go by, then open-source definitely provided the better search results.

I'm excited at the possibility of giving away Jojo for free and making a viable business out of it at the same time. Our income stream depends on paid support, extra web development and design work, donations, and perhaps some advertising once we have decent traffic volume.

We chose the LGPL license as it's trusted a lot more in the development world than a home-baked license with potential strings attached.

Harvey Kane.

Your Comments

Michael Brandon - Shipping to Australia - Oct 11, 2007

Hmmm, I did the same sort of search, found a package, scraped the site, then came back to it when I needed it, and it had not saved properly.... The learning curve that comes with new packages.

SEO'ing the Europac site at the moment, some onpage, site issues, and links. It is a pain having to think of all the basics that Jojo does as part of the package. Non www to www, home pages linking back to index.php rather than root. It is just so much nicer being able to add sites straight into Jojo and not have to think of such things.

John - Jul 10, 2010

Great post!

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