Can no-code be open-source?
I’ve been learning about open-source software. See the Farnam Street podcast episode featuring WordPress.org’s co-founder Matt Mullenweg.
WordPress is open source. This means you can use it for free, see and change the code as much you’d like, and even sell the changes you make.
But why would anyone create an open-source product?
And if you build a product using a no-code tool like Bubble, can your product ever be open source?
Why build an open-source product?
Open-source takes advantage of the power of many people working together. Sounds pretty ideal, right?
Wikipedia is like open-source software because it relies on open contributors. Wikipedia is better when detached from central control and money incentives. The same goes for certain software. Spread the power out so that no one group takes over.
WordPress created an ecosystem of businesses and other products. The WordPress goal was to create the platform that kept growing the pie. For Matt Mullenweg, the business opportunity was to create services around WordPress. He created for-profit products as pieces of the pie.
How can open source apply to a no-code product you are building using Bubble, Adalo, Glide, etc.? Can you make a product like WordPress?
Can a product built with no-code be open-source?
The short answer is no.
If you are building a product on a no-code tool, and that no-code tool is not open-source, then your product can’t be either.
The exception is when no-code tools allow you to export code. In this case, your product could could be open-source. But, most of these no-code tools are only design tools that help you build a frontend. A full app would also have a backend. See the difference between frontend and backend here.
Something else to consider is the impact of your product. WordPress redefined how someone could start a blog. It was a big move. It entered “platform” territory. It provided a platform for others to launch off of. Perfect for open source.
The real question then becomes, is your no-code product “platform” status? If not, it may not be worth trying to hack your no-code product into an open-source product. But, there may still be some open-source principles to apply.
Here’s how you can use open-source principles while building your no-code product.
You could share your product’s template and create no-code tutorials for free. It’s not exactly open-source, but it’s close.
That being said, open-source, decentralization, and building-in-public all have similar principles. You can adopt these principles even if your product isn’t open-source.
Here are three open-source principles:
- Abundance Mindset – we don’t live in zero-sum world anymore. The internet frees up resources like never before and so it’s possible to have a we win, you win, I win strategy.
- Community Strength – there is strength in numbers. Working together with shared incentives can help us build better products.
- Transparency – good things follow like accountability, helping others learn, and creating equity.
I’ll be trying to put these three principles to work in what I build.