Software quality firm SmartBear is releasing freeware versions of some of its products, including API testing tool SoapUI and the guts behind the AlertSite API. SmartBear charges hefty license fees for the commercial versions of these products. It expects some of those who download and find value in the tools to find more value by becoming SmartBear customers. This freemium approach borrows from both SaaS and open source, with an eye toward community service mixed with the classic food court taste test.
As API growth has expanded so has the need for tools to manage that growth. Developers of all stripes are consuming and providing more APIs than ever before. It makes sense to provide entry-level tools for free because today's bootstrapped side project might be tomorrow's billion dollar valuation.
It's that same thinking that drives API vendors to provide free API management tiers right alongside what's available to large enterprise customers. The dirty little API secret is that most of them don't get much use. A bunch of free users of API management software do not require a lot of resources, even in aggregate.
The release from SmartBear is not open source. The company instead is making six products available as freeware. The Source Code may not be downloadable, but the strategy is similar: share with the community and expect that someone will want more than a taste.