Promoted is going Open!

Dan and I met at Pinterest ads engineering. We started Promoted to solve the problems that engineers like us had making search and ads 10x better.

This last year, we’ve met many excellent engineering teams at top marketplaces and social media. Over and over again, we hear how every top engineering team was re-inventing the same streaming data search ranking + performance ads stack. They couldn’t outsource any part, and they needed to maintain control, but many great engineers were blocked on realizing their greater ambitions within their own companies. Meanwhile, infra costs mounted and feature roadmaps got buried in tech debt while profitability concerns continued to grow.

We’ve heard you: Promoted is going Open! Now, fully own your streaming data infrastructure, ads auction, and real-time personalized machine learning end-to-end following best practices by systems already powering top, scaled marketplaces like Hipcamp, Outschool, and Teachers Pay Teachers. Mix any combination of Promoted-managed and self-hosted solutions, modify our systems as you need, and build your engineering brand by contributing back to the open  community.

Promoted is “going open” by making all our software “source-available” under a license with two simple restrictions: you may not provide our software as a managed service, and you may not use our software for ads. This is similar to “free and open-source” software, but adds two restrictions to protect our business and community. Otherwise, you are free to read, use, download, modify, and redistribute our software, according to the Promoted License.

Promoted’s openness is designed to fit the needs of our customers: engineering teams at large online marketplaces, e-commerce, and social media companies. Our customers need control, customization, modularity, a deep technical understanding of our systems, and self-hosting services. Making source code openly available is the most effective way to meet the needs of our customers while also building our business, and it enables free and open collaboration between engineers building similar systems at similar companies. This is ideal for engineers to build their careers with visible leadership in the community while using an excellent, well-understood general system. And this is great for engineering and product leadership, who use Promoted as a reliable foundation for building the features most valuable to their business. 

We aim to make our business objectives clear in advance and by the best examples. This helps us win the trust of our customers, who value sensible business models and predictable licensing over free software with no restrictions. Promoted’s product is intrinsically commercial, and Promoted is a for-profit, venture-funded business. We model our licensing strategy after the final state of other successful, enterprise-focused, open companies like Elastic, Apollo, and Gitlab. When you use our software for ads, or if you would like to resell our software as a managed service, we expect to sell you a license. Otherwise, our software is free to use. We strive to avoid relicensing for our free community.

We are excited to start this new chapter in the life of Promoted. We have always felt like a part of the engineering teams of our customers. Our move to Open brings us closer together. There will be a transition period while we migrate our systems from closed to source-available. We will continue to provide our hosted solutions, and please reach out if you have any questions. Thank you!


Andrew & Dan