Monday, 17 February 2014

FusionCharts mocks open source but uses it extensively.

Back in 2000, I was working for a company named Maserith Information Systems. I was busy building a Web application for teachers to create and share lesson plans. I was writing it in Perl and it ran on a Linux box. I happened to mention that to a bank manager and he sneered. "Open source? You get what you pay for."

And in a classic case of l'esprit d'escalier, it wasn't until I was leaving the bank that I realized I should have asked about his bank's free checking.

Frankly, I thought the days of mocking open source were behind us. It's become such a powerful force in the world and I doubt there are any major businesses which don't rely on it in some way.

And that brings me to On their front page it reads:

JavaScript Charts for the Grown-Ups
Because hobby projects don't cut it for enterprise-grade applications

When they're talking about "hobby" projects, they're referring to open source projects and the sneering "Grown-Ups" is aimed at open source developers. We're not "Grown-Ups", we're kids living in our parent's basement, apparently.

So what's an "enterprise-grade" application? The term isn't well-defined, but I think Facebook might be uncontroversially called that. As of this writing, they're the second most popular site on the Web, according to Alexa.

And what "not for grown-ups hobby projects" does Facebook rely on?

  • Linux
  • MySQL
  • PHP
  • memcached
  • Cassandra
  • Hadoop
  • Hive
  • Erlang
  • Thrift
  • Varnish
  • XHProf
  • Tornado

That's a damned impressive list and, I suspect, not an exhaustive one. Many of those projects were developed by businesses and then later released open source and others, such as Linux, were simply developed by non-Grown-Ups (with apologies to Linus).

However, what really amuses me is that the "hobby projects" line is full of hypocrisy. Here's what a few minutes of reading their html, some curl requests and a quick scan of their job adverts reveals they apparently use:

  • Linux
  • Apache
  • PHP
  • Zend
  • CakePHP
  • Smarty
  • Either MySQL or PostgreSQL
  • jQuery
  • modernizr
  • Prototype
  • Cappuccino

So to Fusion Charts I would say this: if you want to rely on the work of open source developers such as myself (and I guarantee that you have my source code on your servers), that's OK. I don't mind at all. But if you're going to then insult us, grow up.


  1. I think you need to rethink this one. This is a shot at CHARTING LIBRARIES that have essentially 1 person doing dev and support. Their point is that those aren't enterprise-ready.

    The only one reading "open-source" into the conversation is you.

    1. Hey, thanks for courageously replying anonymously.

      Actually, I ran this past several other devs first and yes, they had the same take on it as I did.

    2. If you're going to be an ass about it, remove the option.

      I stand by my comment. You're just looking for something to be upset about.

    3. I agree with Anonymous. This appears to be making mountains out of molehills.

      Yes, FusionCharts *could possibly be* making fun of open source, but it's only by negative attribution that you can get there, and even that requires a logical leap or two.

      It seems fairly obvious that Fusion is just positioning themselves in a way that signals their position as enterprise grade, so that they can justify a $10,000 cost for a product that exists in a variety of ways as a free/open source product.

      Saying that they aren't hobbyists means that they have a team to provide support, and that you aren't just left with a readthedocs link and a .tar.gz file to implement on your own.

    4. Agreed with this comment, blog author seems to want the company to attack open source in some way so he can validate this (dumb) blog post.

  2. Hi Curtis,

    I have a similar view as the 'Anonymous Coward'. I really embrace open source software, but the slogan you object to is most probably written with other open source javascript charts in mind - which might or might not be better in quality then their offering.
    So while open source software can be of comparable or better quality then their commercial counterparts this is as you know not necessarily the case.
    That said, suggesting that when you're using 'a hobby project' you're not grown-up is a bit double-edged remark as there can be good grown-up reasons to use 'a hobby project', but the intention and sentiment (which is flawed) expressed is imo understanable and valid - there are lots and lots open source hobby charting projects which might not meet someone's business needs. You can of course argue if this criticizing of hobby projects as 'immature' in a marketing context is tasteful. But their use of open source projects which nobody considers as such is not hypocritical as you suggest.

    A similar issue is your assessment of the AC post (someone I don't know)... i often hear people talk with disdain about posting anonymously... but when the internet was young people in usenet for example didn't care if people were posting anonymously or not; what mattered was their contribution (wrong or not).

  3. Thanks for letting us know your stance on this but you have got the reading wrong. Let us clarify.

    When we say hobby projects, we don't mean open source projects at large. We mean those charting libraries that an enthusiastic developer decides to build over a weekend, as a learning project, and release to the world. Developers in other organizations looking for a charting library come across it, pick it up and start implementing it in their applications. The initial results feel good, but as soon as the developer moves onto implementing advanced capabilities, they start running into product limitations, cross-browser compatibility issues etc. And when they go back to the creator trying to get a fix for it, the developer has abandoned the project because it was a hobby project for him and his day job is keeping him busy. At this point, if you want to stick with the same product, you've 2 options; either extend the project yourself, or find someone who can do it for you - both of which could be distraction for your main development, and delay execution for you.

    We have been in business for over 11 years now and have seen a lot of players like this that come up, and hence our stance. As an enterprise, when you are building an application, charting might not be your core strength. And hence, when you are looking for someone to take care of that, you need to find yourselves an enterprise-grade charting component. Not only does that cover you on the product part of things and meaningful implementations that can inspire you, it also gives you extensive documentation, assurance that it will continue development and that when you have a tech query, you can go to a support team that will be there when you are running on a tight deadline and need a fix.

    That being said, we are not against open source at all. A good chunk of our own development tools and infrastructure are open-source. There are some good open source charting libraries as well, which we have listed in a competitor comparison table on our website at

    Here's a good read on when choosing a commercial library, instead of open source library, for a niche purpose makes sense -

    But, at the end of the day, the decision is in your hand - for, developers are the king-makers!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to respond and clarify. I appreciate it.

      The wording you used on your front page is the exact sort of wording used to attack open source developers such as myself in the late 90s/early 00s, so it definitely hit a sore spot with me (and some of my other open source friends that I ran it past before posting).

    2. I appreciate the clarification as well. The phrasing *was* uncomfortably close to the sort of language used to poke at FOSS way back when.

  4. I'll bite. I think the hobbyists are exactly the right people for implementing charting. While there are thousands of half baked chart libraries, there are at least a couple of highly polished, full featured open source chart systems that we use without any encumbrances. Fusion chart's disparaging of it all sounds just like Microsofts fud. Well now microsoft has lost the browser bsttle, the phone battle, the db battle, the web server battle. All the people I know use office alternatives. Most people I know avoid the OS though most use proprietary OSX. So hold on to your business, but stop sending your shill employees to spam a small business blog. The blob is right. Your product is legitimately threatened by free alternatives and your marketing only highlights it.