As with any software, there are efforts to create open source RPA. Though there’s already some open source RPA providers, open source RPA ecosystem is currently quite immature. We do not expect this to change in the near future because we do not see major for-profit entities supporting no-code RPA yet. In all cases of strong open source adoption, for-profit companies heavily supported open source code development. For example, you can see share of contributions to Linux Kernel by for-profit companies in the featured image above.
Though the open source RPA ecosystem is relatively weak, paid RPA providers are offering either full versions of their software for free trial or limited versions of their software for free:
Open Source/Free trial/Community Edition RPA softwareThis table includes all open source, community edition (i.e. limited) and free trial RPA software
|TagUI - AI Singapore||Open source|
|Argos Labs||14 day free trial|
|UiPath Community Edition||Freemium|
|VisualCron||45 day free trial|
|Workfusion RPA Express||Freemium|
Open source does not yet have the momentum to shape RPA
When we look at several famous cases of open source success, we see that for-profit corporations leveraged open source software to their advantage. Either the open source project was launched by a for-profit corporation (Android, Chromium) or for-profit corporation(s) embraced the open source software as it allowed them a competitive advantage against competitors (Linux, WordPress). Neither of these are yet the case in RPA.
In the modern software world, all 4 major cases of open source success relied on for-profit corporations:
Successful open source software that benefited from for-profit companies making it part of their offering:
- 1- Linux: Without vendors like Redhat, acquired by IBM in 2018 for 34B, Linux ecosystem would have been much different today. Though Linux was not started by a for-profit company, its growth heavily relied enterprise software vendors. This was a win-win situation. These vendors could access a competent server operating system for free so they could reduce total cost of ownership for their enterprise customers and still make healthy profits offering support services. Linux ecosystem also benefited as these vendors contributed to the software.
- 2- WordPress: WordPress, the content management software powering ~30% of the web, is commercialized by numerous companies. The most prominent company commercializing WordPress is Automattic, founded by the founders of WordPress. Automattic was valued at >1bn in 2014.
Successful open source software started by for-profit companies:
- 3- Android: Google started Android to break Apple’s hegemony over mobile operating systems and protect its mobile advertising business. The fastest way for Android to gain traction was to make it open source and freely available so device manufacturers would have all the incentive to use it. And that’s what Google did and Android became one of the most successful recent open source projects, dominating majority of the mobile OS market.
- 4- Chromium (the code on which Google Chrome is based): Almost the same story for Android but this time Google’s aim was to break Microsoft’s hold on the browser market.
However, we do not see such open source projects embraced by major corporations in the RPA space yet. This could change if RPA implementation companies found an open source solution as strong as the existing closed source solutions. If such a strong open source RPA software existed, they could support it and offer it to their customers. This would reduce total cost of ownership for their customers and therefore increase their addressable market.
Free versions of closed source solutions allow RPA companies to increase their developer base
While we do not currently see open source to lead the way in RPA, we expect more RPA companies to offer free trial/freemium versions of their software as this allows them:
- Exposure to more developers. Developers are more likely to learn products they can download and play with.
- Exposure to more companies. Freemium versions are especially attractive to smaller companies that want to automate relatively simple tasks. And once they develop their process solutions with freemium RPA, the company providing freemium RPA will be in a good position to upgrade them to a paid package.