Friday, 3 May 2013

TraceGL (and the failure of the OpenSource commercial model)

After seeing on reddit (I think) a thread about TraceGL, I decided to try it on TM SSO integration I’m working on (where I really need to take a look at what is happening with a website’s javascript traffic).


So I went to https://trace.gl/ (checkout the video)

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and clicked on the Get it Now link noticed that you can’t download it (or get the source)

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Now last week, there was a ‘put your Credit card details here’ form, which (as a security conscious web user) was really something I didn’t want to do.

So I went into the support issues and added (https://github.com/codegl/tracegl/issues/38):

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which was addressed 5 days later:

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So now I’m happy click try this tool (for the price of a couple cups of coffee) using paypal’s website:

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using my SI account:

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I bought it, and downloaded the tracegs.js file

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The legal terms have an interesting security caveat:

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To start TraceGL take a look at the docs page which will give you a number of options:

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Since I don’t have the code code the target website, I’m going to try the last option (‘Browser JS via proxy’)

For example to hook into Wikipedia you would use node tracegl http://en.wikipedia.org/

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this will open a local server with the visualization UI on localhost:2000

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and look something like this when working (the bug you see below is reported on this issue (I was able to get it working ok natively on OSx\))

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Note that the target domain needs to support direct IP access, which in this case Wikipedia doesn’t:

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Why the comment about the failure of Open Source model?

Because this is a javascript app (code is distributed as ‘the release’) which would benefit a lot from the code being open.

But, if it was open, would the TraceGL developer get the same amount of funds he/she gets now?

No, I don't think so. And with no clear path to ‘how to get revenue to pay for dedicated development time’, this is a good example of how in 2013 the OpenSource movement has not been able to create a financial model that allows this type of apps to be developed and maintained in an open way.

So what could be a model that could work? I have a couple ideas that I will try to blog about in the future :)
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