Should I make a website open source?


I want to make a website, that is by definition a software, but I don't remind seeing any open source websites. My website like many is supposed to pay itself by ads.

Is there a reason why I should not open the source code of my whole website instead of just specific components? And the benefits are the same of making other kind of software open source?

I am not sure if it will be for profit or not, so in the case the answers for both are different, you would be interesting to point it out.

EDIT: I tried to clarify the question above. I don't have any doubt on how great is to get something awesome you made for you website, strip any dependencies to your website and make publicly available. I wonder whether every company or NPO keep the code of the website itself for them (and that is what I meant by not in a public repository ) and why?

Strategy Website Open Source

asked Mar 29 '12 at 21:53
109 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll
  • What language are you building your software in? If you are just talking about an html site, the source is automatically available. If you are writing custom Ruby, or .NET, or something like that then there are components that you could open source if you wanted to. – Justin C 12 years ago
  • Could you please clarify: "to put website in a public repository" from your comment below? What exactly you want to open source? For example you should never give public access to some configuration files of your website due to security reasons. – Refineo 12 years ago
  • Just a word of caution: it is *tough* to sustain a business on ad revenue only. It *can* work, but more typically, you'll bring in anywhere from pennies to maybe tens of dollars a month. Enough to pay hosting costs, but hardly enough to quit your day job. Keep your eyes open for other ways to generate income with your idea. – rbwhitaker 12 years ago
  • @rbwhitaker Thank you for the advice. I have been warned, I may even make a NPO out of it, though I have in mind a different advertising model much more appropriate for this website. – Michelpm 12 years ago

2 Answers


This depends from several other things:

  1. Do you think that the code you will make public will provide benefits to someone else(i.e. will someone else use it)?
  2. Does your website software contain something new or special?
  3. Do you expect people to build around it i.e. to extend it, fix errors etc?


How you can benefit from an open source site?

If you are using a design that you are willing to share as a template or the application bellow your website contains useful functionalities and after a good buzz around it then people may decide to use it, extend it with additional modules/widgets/cross-browser fixes/etc.
Have in mind that none of the famous web projects has become famous in one night. You are the one who have to pull the project forward to make it popular and to gain contributors.

answered Mar 29 '12 at 22:40
Ilian Iliev
136 points
  • I guess if the first or second apply, an library is made out of it. The third is that I don't know the answer. You think there is no reason why one would put the whole website in a public repository? – Michelpm 12 years ago
  • Good answer. The key to this decision is whether there is a community that will do something with the code. If not, it doesn't really make sense. – Alain Raynaud 12 years ago
  • Sure, great on the theory. What I want to know is if it is in fact a practical business strategy? Will them benefit and build around a website? – Michelpm 12 years ago


If you want to give people access to your data and resources, then you should make a web service api that they can call; you site would then be a software as a service site. If you have some type of software that others can install as a website or as an add-on to their website and you want everyone to have the code, possibly contributing to it and improving it, then make it open source.

answered Mar 30 '12 at 03:50
179 points
  • No, not data and resources, the code. – Michelpm 12 years ago

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