What is the Definition of “Commercial” Application?

old guy with a buck

The problem with the “commercial” term

The definition of a “commercial” application, especially a web application, is a completely confusing and ambiguous term. Depending on the company you’re dealing with, you may get different definitions for what is “commercial” and what is not.

Princeton says “commercial” is:

connected with or engaged in or sponsored by or used in commerce or commercial enterprises;

The Free Dictionary says “commercial” is:

    1. Of or relating to commerce: a commercial loan; a commercial attaché.
    2. Engaged in commerce: a commercial trucker.
    3. Involved in work that is intended for the mass market: a commercial artist.
  1. Of, relating to, or being goods, often unrefined, produced and distributed in large quantities for use by industry.
  2. Having profit as a chief aim: a commercial book, not a scholarly tome.
  3. Sponsored by an advertiser or supported by advertising: commercial television.

What I’d really like to see is a standard definition of what a commercial app is and isn’t. I can’t even find a definitive answer in Google’s Terms and Conditions (where of course they ban “commercial” applications without having an agreement with them).

The problem is unless you’re a coder and lawyer you’re probably ignoring the TOS, and that’s probably a good thing too – otherwise nothing cool would get built.

What to do about it

Well, if someone has experience with creating (or at least marketing) web standards, I’d love to help push this dialogue into the space. There must be more discussion surrounding this, and I don’t believe it’s a problem that can be left up to each individual corporation to define.

Having a standardized definition or set of definitions (similar to the creative commons licenses) would help speed innovation, profit, adoption, and all those other great buzz-words that make the world go ’round.

Meh. That sounds like a lot of work. I’m not convinced.

What if we don’t change this? Well, we’ll wallow in our own self-pity when we (those of us who create apps dependent on other services) get shut down because we didn’t follow the TOS of some other company. We’ll complain, but nothing will happen, because we’re letting it happen each and every day by not adopting a standard for ourselves.

Wouldn’t it be better to know the application you just built and put advertising on was considered commercial? Some companies say it is. Some say it isn’t.

What about that one where you put a google map behind a user login that required payment?

Thoughts? Comments? Please, feel free to digg, reddit, or stumbleupon this post. Share it with others. Get the conversation going. Thank you.

Credits: Thanks to my friend Ted for the nice (and geeky) HTML spec discussion and formatting guidelines for this post. And the photo above is thanks to killthebird on Flickr, yes, with a CC license. Point made I think.

[tags]commercial, code, application, creative commons, cc, license, gnu, definition[/tags]

Nate Ritter lives in the Pacific Northwest (U.S.), popularized the #hashtag and creates web applications for a living. He also does miles and point hacking to enable cheap travel for his family. More here →

2 Comments on "What is the Definition of “Commercial” Application?"

  1. Johnny says:

    Good Luck in the thirty day challenge from another participant

  2. nate says:

    Thanks Johnny, you too. I’m excited to learn, but more excited to do something worthwhile.

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