Everyblock's Dilemma: How Do You Open Source Your Entire Site and Survive?

This morning Adrian Holovaty announced that he will be open sourcing Everyblock. Everyblock is a site that crawls local data sources, aggregates the data, and then surfaces them geographically. For instance I get an email everyday that alerts me to news, fire department activity, health notices and flickr photos taken within blocks of my house.

Everyblock is available in Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, and Washington, DC. The data sources vary from town to town. Here are all of the news sources available for Seattle. Unfortunately, our police department only releases aggregated information so I have to learn about our rising crime via news coverage (as opposed to SF’s law enforcement agency). Wanting a clean map design the Everyblock team also invested the time in building their own maps using OpenLayers (case study) and Mapnik. I’ve embedded Adrian’s keynote from Where 2.0 2008 after the jump.

everyblock map

They’ve also used their data to develop mashups like this NYT sponsored one that shows coverage of elected officials (NYC only unfortunately).

everyblock political trends

Everyblock was funded through a Knight News Challenge Grant and they’ve come crossroads as Adrian explains:

But now we’ve reached an interesting point in our project’s growth: our grant ends on June 30, and, under the terms of our grant, we’re open-sourcing the EveryBlock publishing system so that anybody will be able to take the code to create similar sites. That’s a Good Thing, in that EveryBlock’s philosophies and tools will have the opportunity to spread around the world much faster than we could have done on our own, but it puts the six of us EveryBlockers in an odd spot. How do we sustain our project if our code is free to the world?

What do you think? How can they keep the project alive and perhaps even make it profitable if they are providing development resources to the competition? Personally, I do not think that competition will be a major concern for them. They have mind-share with many people interested in local, civic data.

I think that they should be more focused on revenue and building traffic than potential competition. In fact it seems that they could try to route around competitive sites by getting other people to bring Everyblock to other cities. The team could offer the ability for people to create their own hosted version of Everyblock for their community. Let people do the work for them. This could either be a pay service or an ad split (assuming that Everyblock decides to try advertising and there is revenue to go around).

Here’s Adrian’s keynote from Where 2.0 2008.