If it succeeds and becomes popular, now it's a time sink. It's no longer something you tinker on when inspiration strikes. You have obligations.
At that point, it feels like slave labor, like a thing you are required to do without pay. And you feel like if people value it, they should support it somehow.
Most folks doing open source probably aren't great at monetization. If they knew how to do this as a business model from the get go, they probably would have.
Relatively few people feel free at that point to just walk away and say "Not my problem. I created this for free. If you love it, you maintain it. If you need something reliable and up to date, then pay for a commercial product. I've given you all the time I'm going to give you for free. I'm on to new hobbies."
No, instead they get all excited that people want it, resentful that people won't pay for it, and they rightly recognize that it has value. Now they want to be compensated.
And the world has Nobel Prizes intended to encourage people to create brilliant new breakthroughs to benefit humanity without necessarily knowing how to monetize it, so we have this idea embedded in our collective subconscious that if we do a good thing, it ought to be rewarded.
I've done a lot of volunteer work over the years. I've thought a lot about such issues.
I think we would do well to develop some systems for helping people monetize their thing if it gets popular. But we could also work on the cultural side of this and help people understand that you need to think about how much you are willing to give and that if your thing gets popular, making money with it is an additional job to do, not an entitlement.
And if you are bitter that it doesn't pay, one legitimate option is to walk away or only give it however much time you actually enjoy giving it and not one minute more.
What it comes down to is that many people are conflicted about whether they want more users or not. They want the fame, but not the support hassle. So they promote the software and then release it as 0.1 and say it's unstable.
Instead, we should be clear: if you are a hobbyist-programmer, more users mostly means more problems. You might want more contributors (that can fun). But you don't really want more users who don't contribute back.
Setting expectations up front will help. If you don't want people to depend on you, don't put up a marketing page explaining why everyone should install and use your software. Make it easy to build, but don't publish binary releases.
IMO this is a huge problem for user facing applications (e.g. desktop applications like gimp). They have great appeal to fairly non-technical users which creates a huge support load and they often have complex internals which appears to repel many first time contributors. I know I've been watching projects like LMMS (a music creation environment) for years and it seems like a constant struggle to keep enough contributors such that the support load doesn't burn out everyone involved.
I don't know that avoiding marketing is the solution here since that just would mean that commercial alternatives would evolve quickly while the project would die off due to a lack of new contributors, though it might be one of the tools to change the contributor:support ratio.
This way, the developers get paid fairly, for what they actually deliver, but they can't lock the users in. If the developer dies, goes bankrupt or falls into a predatory phase where it milks the product for cash without reinvesting sufficient back (Adobe), then the project can be salvaged as open source by those who use it. An even better option is to allow any commercial developer, after the 3 year period passes, the option to fork and develop it's own version with similar licensing conditions.
This will ensure a healthy, competitive environment where the software can be monetized traditionally, yet the 4 freedoms are (eventually) satisfied. As a user, this is what you care about above all else; you will pay the commercial license fee to get the bleeding edge product, knowing you are in a way "leasing to own" the software and you will be able to fork it in-house if the way you use it diverges from what the publisher will want in the future.
The "monetization" world has a lot of incentive in keeping open source small and make money from services, this is a cause for a lot of heartburn. This is the reason why there is no linux desktop. There are too many locked-in interests with too much power.
Another reason is that the actual deployers are not the owners of the project. For example, a company asks its developers to deploy a particular open source system. These developers don't respect the fact that the system they are using is free. For them, it would have been the same if were a closed system. When these developers-on-a-deadline hit a roadblock, they start hyperventilating and ranting on the forums.
The other class is small service providers who make money off the last mile deployments. They will resist any attempt for the product to become more complete. While they cannot win in the long run, it is a huge waste of time and resources.
It is hard balance to maintain.
People here are saying that this "Common Clause" is just another proprietary license. But from what I gather this isn't the case. What "Common Clause" does is enforce amateurism for not just creators, but for all licensees. As long as you are an amateur you can enjoy open source conditions, but anyone can't charge for your effort. Not only is this more in line with the spirit of amateurism, but it also enables developers to go professional without being strictly proprietary.
I can't tell if this license is a good idea. I do see some problems with it. But I do think things have to change in general. Software development is a professional industry today. Many people cannot afford to work on open source. The whole situation starts to remind me of the "sharing" economy. Where large companies and their associates makes all the money why the the ones doing the work are expected to do so at cost.
Maybe the most disappointing is how threatened people seem to be by change. While at the same time accepting how the large companies behave. I do think that suggest that there is something rotten in the state of open source. At least for me the important part was the creating and the sharing itself. Not under what license that happened. People do realize that they are paying for proprietary licensing all the time and that a lot of their $3k laptop is de facto licensing?
Does anyone know any science fiction novels that really dive into the possible consequences of a post-scarcity, post-money society?
You don't really need speculative fiction though, just look at what the millions of folks who already have basic income do with their time. Volunteering is pretty high on the list.
I would actually be interested in seeing some numbers on that question. Do you know of any sources? Who are the millions of folks you're thinking of?
Anyone from a family with intergenerational wealth. I haven't seen formal statistics on this, but most of the people I've talked with in this situation aren't just sitting around smoking crack or whatever the anti-UBI folks claim would happen.
Yes! They even do it on their limited resources right now.
Very well put. And I think there is great potential as well. Especially businesses that aren't very tech centered need a trusted third party (eg. Oracle for their DB) that makes sure that (A) the project is still maintained in 15 years and (B) there is sb to call when there is a problem.
Both things OSS can't usually provide. But businesses are of course willing to pay for that, they already do.
I think it’s really worth investing time in studying this problem and looking for solutions, because the impact of open source on the economy and society is huge, and still growing at a rapid clip. So how these issues play out - who participates in open-source, how resources get allocated, how future inventors are incentivized and past inventors are rewarded - will impact everyone, not just direct open source contributors.
First, documentation. There's no more or less standard way to document systems and the kinds of people who think to spend 9 months building Widgets are usually doing it as a learning exercise. To pick up and maintain a large solution, you need documentation, and the OSS community has not, by and large, focused on utilities to automate the process and make that happen. It is a tough problem, but I would think developers would be self-interested in building the best possible developer tools and libraries. Instead I see Vi and Vim, and people talking about how visual studio is better.
Second, forever-copyright. The US has a forever-copyright which fundementally does not benefit the public as it does not meet the criteria of enriching the public domain. A key thinking exercise is, when has any commercial software, ever, involuntarily entered the public domain? Someone somewhere owns the rights. Literally you have Nintendo sueing ROM sites for stuff they made in the 1980's and largely on the argument "we need our customers playing new games to drive new sales". Without that flow from commercial to public domain, private companies are, over and over and over again, making the same mistakes and the same software. It's a subsidy to dim-witted management. Illustrating how ridiculous this is; Government thinks removing encyption from everything is necissary to secure the public, without realizing ensuring databases have horribly inaccurate and incomplete data with varying schema's is what drives labor expense in the software market; because of forever copyright, they now have a stenographic exercise when they wiretap.
Third, lobbying. The OSS Community views lobbying as something that people aspiring to be mass-murderers do. What they need to do is view lobbying as a personal investment oppertunity that far exceeds the return of 401k, ira, or any job change. If 1 million people donated 10% of their internet bill to the EFF per month just to bring anti-trust against ISP's and restore net neutrality, it'd take 5 years of investing to wrangle the beast, but after that, your internet bill halves and your speed doubles and the speed doubling is really key, that creates a cultural revolution. Similarily, if 100k developers donated $100 a month to a lobbying firm who's job it was to fix just copyright for software, the net payoff would be far in excess of the upfront investment. The correct question to ask here ultimately is "What would Ghengis Kahn give to see a nuke go off from a safe distance, or King Charles the V for a shot of Penecillin?". The monetary returns of the investment make sense, but ultiamtely, what DBA's and Systems administrators do are largely stewardship positions within organizations and their time is spent maintaining glue. Remove the glue, and you get a renissance. You want them engaging in inventive and academic exercises for organizations, and finding ways and spending time selling technology to the organization, whether OSS or not. To do that you need a market that supports models and standards.
And I honestly think the OSS community, if it doesn't start lobbying, is rather irresponsable. I think traditional labor organizations such as the AFLCIO\Teamsters would benefit tremendously from standing up labor collectives for IT People.
In my view consulting companies need to prioritize and bundle these skills.
Let me suggest that a first step would be to stop sneering at writers and telling them what total fucking losers they are for not being coders.
I briefly tried to get involved with Open Source. It went nowhere in part because of the enormous wall of contempt with which I am routinely met.
I'm a woman and people generally seem to feel that I should do things out of the goodness of my heart and not expect any benefit whatsoever in return. I have been met with open hostility for trying to figure out how to monetize my work, network professionally, etc.
If writers tend to skew female, that may also be a relevant issue to the problem space.
I've spent years desperately poor while people piss all over me for being poor and also piss all over the idea that I could possibly have anything of value to offer. I have six years of college. I was one of the top students of my graduating class. Etc.
As far as I can tell, sexism is a very large factor in my intractable poverty. For any other issue I have, I can find a male example of someone with the same type of issue who was, nonetheless, successful. But women just seem to not be taken seriously professionally, not be treated with the same respect, etc.
I'm angry. I'm less inclined to do stuff for other people than I once was because I have learned the hard way that it simply doesn't come back to me in a positive way in most cases. In fact, I have essentially been told by someone wealthy and powerful that someone I did a lot for continues to use their personal connections to wealthy people to tell lies about me and drag my name through the mud and this snake in the grass is apparently believed.
If Open Source is generally crapping all over writers half as much as I've been crapped on, there's your problem.
I'm sorry for the situation you are in. You are apparently angry at the world, and whatever led you to this, I hope you can fix it. Please don't take my words below in the wrong way, I mean well.
Playing "woman", "poverty" and similar cards usually doesn't help when getting a job / work. Managers (smart ones at least) will want to hire good hires, not because they are white / black / male / female / ..., but because they will do a good job. Even mentioning such things is a strong signal not to consider you for hire, because it tells the manager that you will bring a lot of baggage. Nobody wants that, they just want a capable writer.
Open Source is not about helping people. If you know how, you can use it to build a reference, if that's what is missing from your resume, if you have time, if you know how, and if you find a suitable project... a lot of ifs.
I'm in no way trying to use my gender or social status to open doors. I appear to be the highest ranked woman on HN. If I can't open doors based on competence because my gender gets in the way, I imagine it's far harder for other women.
I didn't leave that comment to complain about my situation. I left it as "testimony" and constructive feedback for the person saying essentially "writers are desperately needed". I'm a writer. For a time, I was amenable to contributing my skills to open source. It went nowhere. Here are my thoughts as to why that might be so.
Yes, I'm angry. I said that, so I'm not hiding that fact. My anger is not unjustified, nor is it reason I can't seem to open doors. Cause and effect run the other way. I'm angry because I do the things I'm told I should do that apparently work for others and it doesn't work for me.
Perhaps I will get better at making it clear that such a comment isn't intended to solicit pity or advice or whatever. Perhaps not. People seem to routinely jump on giving advice to folks who leave such comments, whether it is me or not.
I have taken to flagging and downvoting advice replies given to folks saying "Yes, this broad issue (racism, sexism, whatever) is real. I have experienced it firsthand. Here is my testimony." because giving advice in such cases serves to reinforce the idea that sexism, racism etc aren't real issues, it is just some personal problem and you as an individual must be doing it wrong.
I appreciate the opportunity to clarify my intent. It occurred to me after I left the remark that it could be easily misinterpreted. I decided to leave it up anyway.
There are ways in which HN has been really good to me and I am very appreciative of that fact. I don't want people to get the wrong idea.
But that doesn't change the fact that a) writers get a lot of contempt from coders and b) sexism is alive and well. And it doesn't change the essence of my advice above that if you really feel you need more writers in (your) open source (project), then it might behoove you to look at factors like that.
Secondly, you have to decide with what you are happy with in your life and seek that out. Literally, you have an entire group of rich people who have made the poor decision in life to tie their ego to a literal number, whom actually behave exactly like WOW or EVE gamers chasing the next shiney. And worst of all, they think its a great idea to run people around. Why are you wasting your time trying to get in with these people? Go somewhere else where you are respected and admired and be happy. Some of the best managers I've had were women, including one of the mechanical engineers who I work with who has showed me so much about how act, think, and question like an engineer. I have had people who have really inspired me in life and she is one of them.
You have a gift they do not have; you have a creative mind and a soul with drive. You cannot buy that with money or any amount of training. They are afraid of you and due to that, they view you with contempt. Ego is a nasty drug. Leave it behind.
Finally, If someone really is subjugating you, then either you have wronged them seriously and did not realize it and you need to appologize and get out of that social support group, or you have become an obsession of them because attacking you gives them something they are missing in life. Instead of being indignant, or allowing them to get reactions out of you, deal with the situation. Find someone sympathetic, spring a trap, document their statements, and take the individual to court and ensure the evidence will stick and the evidence is loud and proud on public record.
Do not be one of those people who is so hurt they are incapible of thinking straight and makes overly-broad statements like "OSS just craps over writers". Such behaivour is not befitting an engineer.
As other's have pointed out, but it bears repeating, this is not a thing.
There is actually nothing particularly shocking about what Redis is doing here; it's been done by many open source companies in the past and present and nobody cares. Yes, it can be considered a somewhat less tasteful way to make money from an open source platform but not enough to get a big thread on HN.
What they did to stir this debate is confusingly and unnecessarily tie this move to open source licensing and "commons" naming. This is what brought all this attention to something that is otherwise not very controversial.
It's only controversial because it's been phrased as an evolution of the Open Source model. We have articles like this getting thrown around about how the Open Source community needs to grow up and accept Open Core, right next to articles about how the Common license is going to be the death of Open Source.
This is only a debate because Redis doesn't know how to write a decent press release.
But in reality, most people already accept Open Core. We're not getting a ton of articles on Hacker News about how Gitlab is evil. Just don't act like it's something new or innovative. It's not some brand new problem for us to solve, or a sign of the Open Source community's immaturity.
We really don't need a new license for Open Core, and even if we did need some kind of shared source available/proprietary license, it probably wouldn't look like the Commons license.
It ok if you want to say we have Apache open core and then non-free extensions, but you shouldn't associate the non-free extensions with Apache.
It would have been controversial anyway because they've taken existing software and put a more restrictive license on it; this will always generate headlines. The error was trying to avoid the inevitable backlash by spinning it like it was an original improvement on the first principles of licensing. Now they have a double backlash: against the new restriction, and against the concept of this being the New Frontier of OSS licensing. By trying to be clever, they've shot themselves in the foot.
They have a trademark on "Apache" and even a lot of software under the "Apache Commons" brand. This is extremely confusing and clearly dilutes their branding.
I have no problem with Redis Labs prioritizing (although I think an AGPL dual license would be more appropriate). I have a serious, serious problem with the intentional confusion they're spreading.
On the whole, I think this will backfire. Redis Labs undercut their credibility. I'm unlikely to do business with a company I don't trust. The main value-add of being the official developer of an open source product is that trust. A lot of that is likely to spill over on Redis itself.
It also does signal a financially weak position.
I stand by my original disagreement. Removing the open source license from some of their own software would have been met with some discussion but not anywhere near "the same level vitriol" that you seem to believe. The proprietary module business model is used by plenty of open source companies including Nginx. So why would you think Redis would be exceptional here?
But this whole Commons Clause licensing thing is absolutely bizarre. The naming itself is obfuscating the fact that this actually removes this code from the commons which is the exact opposite of the similarly named Creative Commons licenses. Secondly, it's highly questionable whether or not you can simply attach an external rider like this to existing open source license; Apache License + something else is no longer the Apache license.
I don't understand why any company would go through this awful mess except obfuscation. I don't think they have any intention to defraud; I think they just wanted to make their proprietary plan sound better. And I think that is a mess but their actual business model is both sound and reasonable.
You wrote an article about how open source must "get real" and accept these business models and I'm sorry that the entire premise is undermined by the hundreds of other open source projects that have a variety of business models either closely or exactly matching what Redis is trying to do here. The only thing Redis did poorly was try and hide it under flowery language and poor legal advice.
The problem is that this "Commons" rider is confusing and misleading. The term "Commons" makes it sound like this is a Creative Commons license - which it is not. The term "commons" is often used to refer to open source software licenses - which this is not. The coupling with Apache makes it sound like this licensing system is from or endorsed by the Apache Foundation - which it is not. (The article uses the term "Apache Common Clause license" - the fact that author thinks that's a reasonable name, even though Apache didn't create or endorse this license, shows how confusing the situation is.) The Commons FAQ admits that the rider isn't OSS, but then suggests that the OSI definition is some minor technicality - yet the OSI definition is what practically everyone uses, and the "technicality" is at the heart of the point (that everyone can use it for any purpose).
Yes, making money is hard. That problem is not limited to OSS either - most new restaurants fail within the first 2 years. I love to see new/better ways to fund OSS. Having a proprietary rider for some modules or having an open core model aren't new ideas, but if they want to do those things (and have the legal right to do), then let's see what happens!
But if you're going to create a rider, it's important to actively work to not be confusing. It's hard getting consensus on anything; I think the anger here is choosing names that appear designed to be deceptive. If these names and such aren't changed, I wouldn't be surprised if the Creative Commons Corporation or Apache Foundation start considering a trademark suit to prevent confusion in the marketplace. If they weren't intended to be deceptive - and I hope they weren't - then some renaming and clarification would go a long way.
A phrase associated with it is "tragedy of the commons" which means everyone takes as much as they can get to enhance their own lives and doesn't give back. This is one of the things impacting Open Source and one if the things people are complaining about when they say companies use Open Source, make money off of it, but don't want to support it.
Historically, the commons was typically a field where animals grazed. Overgrazing by some could ruin it for all.
Also, if the project does become popular eventually (which is very unlikely), maintenance is a lot of work. To make matters worse, there is a general tendency that if things go wrong, the community will blame you but if things go well, you get almost no credit.
Even if your project has several thousands of stars on GitHub, it means nothing financially. Most of these OSS authors can't afford to quit their day job even though their project may be generating millions of dollars of value for other people.
Money is an important topic to open source authors because after a decade of working for free during nights and weekends, most of them would love to be able to afford to quit their day jobs to focus exclusively on their projects but they can't do that; they're tired but they have to keep soldiering on with the 80+ hour work week.
Being an open source author is not a wise life decision right now. I think that any business innovation which helps keep open source projects going should be welcome.
The problem for all of these categories is that lots of people want to do the job. There is basically an unlimited supply of people that like to write novels, make programming languages, play soccer, or make video games. That makes it a buyers market. "What? This iPhone game is $0.99? No way. I'll play one of the million free iPhone games instead."
For every singer, basketball player, or instagram personality that hits the big time, there are thousands that never made a dollar doing it.
For better or worse, authoring an open source library is one of those things that there is no shortage of people willing to do, so I am not optimistic about use of "business innovations" to solve this problem. If those innovations are in any way non-consumer friendly, consumers are just going to choose a different open source tool/project.
But that difference does not change the market dynamics in any way. In both cases, the effects of a near unlimited supply of creators is having the same effect, regardless of how their creations get used.
Perhaps the difference changes the ethics of the situation, I don't know, but I remain equally skeptical of "business innovations" being able to help the OSS creators as I am "business innovations" being able to help aspiring rock stars and shortstops.
That's almost exactly the opposite of very popular OSS software, which generates an endless wave of free users. And generally no whales. And high demands for bug fixes. And serious temper tantrums (this has happened to me too) when you explain to users of your free software that you owe them exactly fuck. and. all. and won't be hopping-to in order to fix something for them.
Sure there are some runaway indie hits that make money to cover the development. And Linus Torvalds gets paid $10 million per year to work on open source. But nearly all indie game developers never make anything from their games, same as OSS authors. (Indie games are an the appropriate comparison since we are talking about independent OSS authors, not Facebook developers working on React).
In any case, I am not arguing that all of these endeavors are equivalent in all ways. My only point is that all of the fields have an oversupply of creators. The result is that creators don't have leverage over consumers. To really spell it out: if OSS library creators try sticking the commons clause or other "innovations" on their projects, most businesses are just going to go find another library that does the same thing, without the restriction.
I have an OSS project used by 1000s of people and many huge companies. I don't get compensated for that directly and I don't expect to. I'm just happy to be able to use it on my own projects no matter what company I am working with.
If you think your code is worth money, sell it.
LGPL/GPL/AGPL exist for a reason. Not my fault you used BSD/MIT and didn't consider what you were explicitly allowing and encouraging people to do.
Also, it would be common decency but we live in an era where if something cannot be enforced in court then you should not be surprised somebody is [not] doing it. Oh well.
These are people who are providing a service, potentially because it’s a passion, but other entities soak up the profit.
You seem to be arguing that these people (in the grandparent comment and my own) do get paid, but my understanding is that they don’t, or barely do.
(And I know I would have a "donation budget" if I was a businessman because I am not stupid and I know the work of which people outside my company facilitates my business further.)
But appreciation is not what businessmen do. 99% are cut-throats in all areas of their lives.
Having said all that, I think the original article is on point in at least one crucial respect: all of these cited kinds of work require a huge investment of time, and it's very hard to sustain that investment without money. This is why I always get very frustrated with the particular kind of pseudo-libertarian who blithely asserts that artists and writers don't need to be fairly compensated for their work, because clearly they'd keep doing it solely out of the love of creation. In reality, artists and writers--and open source programmers--aren't likely to put in "second job" level hours without compensation indefinitely. They're going to have a family, or develop more relaxing hobbies, or possibly just get frustrated by the ongoing effort.
I don't know if "business innovations" can solve this problem, but I think it's worth looking for more ways for developers (and writers and artists and...) to bring in some kind of stable recurring revenue.
...but practically how do you do it?
The parent comment is quite right, going from 'pay x' to 'pay y' is one thing... but from 'pay nothing' to 'pay anything' is a massive and difficult step.
You can't make it mandatory; theres a glut of stuff out there, and people will just move on to the next free (perhaps crappier, but free!) version.
'business innovations may help' is just a nice way of saying 'well darn, nothing we've tried in the last 10 years to fix this has worked... hm. Don't really have a solution for this, but it'd be great if someone figured one out!'
...which I totally agree with, sure, but its not really helpful or practical.
Seriously, nothing people have tried (tips, patreon, foundations) has worked very well.
No one is going to solve this problem any time soon.
Of you're an open source library author/maintainer, you've got to acknowledge you're not just magically get rewarded for your efforts; you have to work for it, and (probably, for most people) your attempts to monetize it will fail.
The same is true for all creatives.
If I had an answer to that, I'd be a full-time fiction writer. :)
Seriously, I suspect most people aren't going to ever make a lot from creative efforts, which we'll lump open source libraries into; the vast majority of us are going to be much farther out along the low long tail of the compensation curve.
I suspect the only thing that will help -- not to the degree that everyone will be able to make a living wage doing whatever they want, but to the degree that more people will feel like they're getting something back for the time they're putting in beyond the Warm Fuzzy Feeling of Sharing -- is a cultural shift of sorts. We need to uncouple the concept of "zero marginal cost" from the concept of "should be free." (I'm aware that leads down a whole rabbit hole about IP and "piracy," but I'm leaving it aside.) In the open source world, we may all say we're here for the free-as-in-freedom part rather than the free-as-in-beer part...but we're sure disinclined to pay for those beers.
Who gets to determine what is “fair compensation” and to whom?
So based on supply and demand, i.e. prices?
In a pure supply/demand market races to the bottom can and do happen.
When the concept of open source software was first introduced, it was seen as a desperate way to get users but it was an effective strategy at the time.
Today, giving software for free is not enough - I think that the next trend will be to pay people to use your OSS software. Probably with cryptocurrency.
This was not the motive for free software's beginning, nor does it describe the beginning of the term "open source." The concept rose out of early computing allowing and sometimes encouraging users to share and improve software, and the true start of the movement envisioned a model similar to Red Hat, where the software is sold though sharing is not restricted.
Forcing user payment is effectively impossible for open source software, someone can just buy a copy and redistribute it without the required payment, so your prediction is a movement away from open source software.
Not particularly. It's depressing to see businesses profitably exploit that work, and irritating to see people develop a sense of entitlement without ever contributing back.
Though I wish more general users donated to projects, people using the software without paying seems better than people not using or paying for the software, and far better than paying and being unable to use the software.
In the end it's about what choice you make. If you choose to help the community then you must be prepared that it will be a thankless and hard job. If you cannot bear it, don't help the community.
Trouble with open source is, many people don't realize this phenomena until they are burned out.
Think I spotted the problem.
This whole thing feels like someone martyring themselves for a cause and being recognized as a hero, but then complaining that martyrs are heroes and we should be _supporting_ our heroes and not forcing them to be martyrs. But that was the whole point to begin with and why there was any opportunity for recognition at all.
You can't have your cake and eat it too.
"Success" in the OSS world is putting code out that others can use. Either they find it useful, or they don't. If they don't that's not failure. That's ... someone else put out something better, or that your user community is small or just not out there.
OSS is not a business model. It's a SHARING model.
God it's just like the music scene these days. Did you get into it for the Art? Cool you're gonna be ok. Did you get into it wanting to be a rock star? Might as well buy a lottery ticket. Your chances are better.
OSS success is providing something of use to a community that contributes back to it.
Yeah, maybe you can find a way to make a nickel off that, but that's not what it's FOR. It's not a marketplace, it's a public library.
This celebrity/glamor seeking is so apparent on github. Every single project's readme.md reads like marketing copy these days.
Just like the music scene again. Reminds me of the 90's when the record labels still had money and steamrolled the alternative scene looking for a cash grab.
That’s the problem: we all take this particular public library for granted, but there isn’t a sustainable model for paying the librarians. Then a librarian tries a creative way to continue serving us without starving, and we tell them “you’re just doing it for fun, if you wanted to make money you shouldn’t have been a librarian!”. This is an ignorant response, because it places on the librarian’s shoulders the responsibility for solving a problem that concerns all of us - because we all benefit from open-source more than we contribute to it. That’s not sustainable.
This way of thinking is, in my opinion, destructively pessimistic. Everything is not always a zero sum gain. We can all benefit more than we contribute and it can still be sustainable. For example, 10 people can spend 10% of their time on a project, and get something out of it that is worth 50% of their time. They took the equivalent of 1 persons work and made it worth 5 people's work. I think most popular OSS projects are orders of magnitude more effective than that at creating benefit. Thousands of people contributing code, a few times a year, makes a project that supports all their careers and provides software that benefits society as a whole.
I get that the problem is the undue burden on the relatively few people who organize this work for really big projects. I've noticed that some of these people are employed by large corporations who encourage their OSS work, because the result, and the thousands of contributions from others they harness are very valuable to these organizations.
I wouldn't be surprised if the large corporations that were listed as the ones using Redis software without paying for it would be willing to sponsor a few employees to represent their interests in the OSS projects. That works for the individual engineers, but that doesn't exactly work for RedisLabs to make $$. So I still don't see RediLabs as a beleaguered crusader trying to save OSS.
I don't think the fact that RedisLabs doesn't have a sustainable revenue model indicates that open source infrastructure in general doesn't.
It's true that there are a number of relatively new venture-funded OSS infra firms that were built on a step 1, build software, step 2 ..., step 3 profit model. But I don't think that's an OSS problem so much as a startup culture problem, as the same problem is rampant in startups in other spaces.
> Then a librarian tries a creative way to continue serving us without starving
It's not particularly creative or novel; the basic outline has been tried since the 80s at least.
OSS is diverse and there are many, obviously, who don’t mind not being paid directly.
But what’s confusing is that there are proprietary licenses. Anyone who doesn’t like volunteering time to OSS can write commercial software and charge for it. That’s the model that works for them.
But the talk of a 40 year old model not being sustainable is pretty funny. It’s more sustainable because it takes so much volunteer time.
It’s not the open-source model I called unsustainable, but a particular response to new forms of open-source monetization.
At any rate, the current model - of open-source as a mainstream R&D model, and as the critical infrastructure for the largest businesses in the world, primarily funded by corporate sponsorship and venture capital... that model is definitely not 40 years old.
You could argue that the model originated at the Linux hype of 1999, when Red Hat was the hottest IPO and IBM was spray-painting penguins on the sidewalks of San Francisco... Or you could argue it really started in 2004 when the Google IPO showed how much more scalable and profitable a business can be when you don’t pay software licenses.
In any case, the current model for open-source is really not that old, and it’s too early to tell how sustainable it really is.
When Stallman thought seriously about open source in the 1980s, it wasn't because he was the only one to ever imagine a culture of sharing around software and information. I think he was reacting to a sense that an existing culture was being erased by growing commercial interests.
One could also argue it originated with gentleman-scholars circulating letters about their new physical science discoveries during the renaissance and feeding into the subsequent industrial revolution. But, I expect it is an emergent property of humanity which is probably exhibited throughout history and pre-history.
It's essentially the same idea of commons and culture applied to yet another domain of knowledge and technology. Was it sustainable for the first farmer to teach his techniques to another? For one chef to teach another how to prepare his dishes? Open source software can be sustainable as long as there are needs and resources available to produce and execute software that does something different or better than could be done without the software (or at a lower cost than other available options). The subsequent sale of additional copies need not be a motivating factor at all.
That was not motivated at all by the open source movement. The only reason AT&T Bell Labs didn't charge a significant amount for UNIX is because they were under a consent decree which precluded them from entering other industries at the time, see https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2011/07/should-we-thank-...
I don't understand this. It seems the argument is "I can't keep giving away software for free unless you pay for it". Then it isn't free software, right? Nothing wrong with that, most of us write proprietary software and sell it. If it's worth more to the people who buy it than what it cost, everyone still benefits.
We use open source software to do our work more effectively. There are all sorts of OSS projects, many entirely run by unpaid volunteers. Many people, myself included, sometimes contribute code to the OSS projects, to benefit myself and anyone else who happens to use it. I don't expect anything else.
But you can't feel entitled for people to pay you for work that we all agreed was volunteer. It's not worth it to do OSS anymore? It's ok to stop doing it. There are enough of us that are rewarded by just being able to contribute, we'll have our own projects. So, it's ok for Redislabs to make their code proprietary and make money off it, if they can. There's nothing wrong with that. But the rhetoric that boils down to "people have been stealing from us by using our code and not paying for it", "it's not fair that they are using our code and making money and not giving us any" is wrong. You gave the code away for free. That was the understanding before you wrote the code, and after it was written. That was one of the reasons people were even using the code. It's not an injustice.
When someone gives you a nice gift, they deserve your gratitude. But if they turn around and say "you never paid me for that", then it wasn't really a gift was it?
The goal for RedisLabs is to make more money from the enterprise add-ons they’re developing. A lot of that money (perhaps most of it) goes right back into maintaining Redis, which remains open-source.
So it absolutely is a matter of funding more open-source gifts, and not taking back gifts.
Just a "Hey what we are doing now isn't working, for our business model we need to make more money and we need to make some of our code around Redis proprietary so we can sell it. Don't worry, Redis itself will remain open source, free to use for everyone."
Instead it was "today’s cloud providers have repeatedly violated this ethos by taking advantage of successful open source projects and repackaging them into competitive, proprietary service offerings". It was open source, they could do that. If you want to make them pay in the future, that's fine. But they aren't the bad guys for using OSS.
Anyway, I hope it works out well for RedisLabs, but I also hope that the licensing of OSS software is simple and open.
Because, in your analogy, the librarians are all volunteers. That’s how we got here. If the pain of not having a problem solved is great enough the volunteers will fix it. Or they won’t. If you feel like the pain level is high enough. Hey maybe YOU should try volunteering to solve it.
This is what makes OSS powerful. It is a community service. If you aren’t happy with the service p become a member of the community and contribute.
Since we as a society rely on open-source enormously, it seems to make sense to try and allow as many people as possible to contribute as much as possible. And that requires giving up on antiquated notions that “only unpaid open-source is real open-source!”. Wouldn’t you agree?
We already do, anyone can do it and we shouldn't restrict that; that's the point.
> And that requires giving up on antiquated notions that “only unpaid open-source is real open-source!”. Wouldn’t you agree?
Not GP, but I most certainly don't, nor is it antiquated. For that matter, calling volunteer work "antiquated" is... A bit cynical, to say the least.
I also don't see how this follows from what you said before, could you walk me through your reasoning?
I emphatically did not say that volunteer work is antiquated! I myself do plenty of it - but I also acknowledge that I’m privileged to be able to afford it. What is antiquated is the notion that only unpaid work is authentic open-source work. It’s important to realize that providing unpaid labor is a luxury. If you exclude or devalue paid work, you exclude and devalue the people who cannot afford to do open-source work for free. As it turnd out, that’s the majority of people.
No, it's not a community service, not really. It's a happy byproduct of some very powerful companies.
Instead of paying LF to hire devs, they hire devs who write code that is contributed to Linux.
Why is that nothing something we should reconcile? Why is that not "sharing"?
Somebody yesterday (maybe DannyBee, not sure) made a very insightful comment in saying that sometimes the value created by Open Source software is created exactly because it's Open Source.
Anyway, you can always charge for software even if the code is Open Source. You can stick it on the web and make it a SaaS app, or you can make the source available but charge to download binaries (ala JBoss back in the day), or you can make source and binaries freely available and sell subscriptions, etc. Aaah, wait, I know, you're asking "who would buy a subscription for something that's free to download?" Companies. Companies will, for things that are mission critical, because they typically need for their to be a contractual relationship (eg, somebody to sue) in place. Or you have a manager who needs to spend her budget or lose it, and she understands that you need to make a profit in order to stay alive and keep enhancing the software. Etc., etc, yadda, yadda, ad infinitum. My point is, it's not as simple as "Oh, I made this Open Source, so there's no way to profit from it".
Quote at the end:
The underlying issue they are trying to solve is that developers believe they should be able to extract some of the wealth they feel they created. In open source, that wealth is often only created because the software was free. Otherwise, people would have used something else that was free but worked well enough. Developers like to often argue this isn't true, but history shows it to be true basically always :) So saying you should be able to extract this wealth is probably wrong. Saying you should be able to get paid a reasonable amount of money is not.
His model was, that programmers are expected to donate their time to OSS creating core components, in order to get jobs integrating those core components into commercial systems.
When you think about the issue like that, it makes a lot of sense, but its a terrible deal for the programmer.
Nobody else does their job on weekends for free.
In a Star Trek utopia, that idealism would be great, but we live in a world where people are exploited wherever possible to ensure endless profit.
It's not that simple, what would be this industry without Linux, without the FSF, without the BSD network stack (that is in all the macs...)
The growth of our industry, and probably of a good chunk of the whole economy for the last 10 years has a lot to do with those people working during nights and week-ends imo.
1) the top 1% employees in the field who have the luxury to invest unpaid time, and the social clout to make their projects more successful, or to join more successful projects. (example: how much more likely are you to be a key contributor to Kubernetes if you are, or were at some point, employed by Google?);
2) the other 99% who cannot afford to invest the spare time, and do not benefit from the social proximity to successful open-source contributors (and success in open-source is as much about social proximity today than technical skills, hopefully we can change that in the future);
3) The corporations who benefit financially from open-source, sometimes enormously, with very little pressure to contribute back because of the aforementioned social pressure on individuals to contribute on their free time. The expectations are so low that even modest corporate contributions (joining or starting a foundation, hiring a few engineers, paying for a conference) will be hailed as generous and benevolent, because the bar is so incredibly low.
Is it really? Of the people I know who have had excellent career paths in software/computing none have a track record of open source contributions.
Right, that’s how they built their career in the past. All things being equal, it will become gradually harder to build a career that way in the future. I already know several major employers who look at a candidate’s github activity as a factor in the standard hiring process. And that trend is only accelerating.
If these people spend a lot of their free time, and perhaps even some of their professional time, in Github contributing to various public projects, then they might not necessarily have 100% focus on the employer's tasks. I am not sure if this is what the employers expect or even want to happen.
The intention is probably to use Github activity as a pre-screening proxy metric for technical capability and skillset. But... why would someone who is contributing a lot to public projects cease to do so, once employed? Is there a risk of getting a partially distracted, though skilled person?
If the wish from the company then is to ensure they get the most performance for themselves, the logical step would be to cut down on the public contributions via e.g. legal and contractual means.
So... why would someone who enjoys contributing to public projects join a company that selects based on Github activity, if it is in the company's interests that further contributions should be reduced?
Ahh... Maybe I am just overanalyzing it.
EDIT: people or corporations, same thing.
Then you remember that there was never any reward and you wonder why you did this to yourself. Lol.
So? What makes your "popular open source project" worth my time? Too many people are using open source as a way to try to turn it into a business, and have a problem turning it into a business. Being an open source project doesn't mean you deserve special treatment.
I think the problem is the mentality you present in your first question: "People underestimate how difficult it is to create a popular open source project."
I imagine it's very hard to create a popular open source project, when in reality, all the popular open source projects I know of started out by being useful open source projects that just happened to catch on.
Patreon is owned by the VCs and will eventually make changes that negatively impact creators.
That said, if you maintain an OSS tool, please do set up an easy way to donate. When it's easy to donate a dollar or two, I do (well...occasionally). I've found very few developers have Patreon's setup. Some will have a PayPal link, which is especially nice for random online tools that I use once or twice. Most don't provide an easy opportunity to contribute financially. Though I guess I should keep more of an eye out for them.
(While Googling for more info, I did come across https://github.com/feross/thanks -- so that's neat.)
You can't just provide software that 1000s of people use. You now have to be creating some story around it on Patreon or whatever, have a way to get people to patreon or your website in the first place, which will only take away time from your side project.
Numbers just don't add up. You can perhaps expect $50/month with those number of users if you really, really tried and spent countless hours on propagation. That's like 1-2 hours of work in a real job.
For a cli tool distributed in major linux distros you don't even have a way to get people to your website, because mostly just packagers will go there and some people with exotic preferences who build from source, which is a tiny minority.
These websites solve none of this.
In the web space maybe. The desktop and CLI sector are much more relaxed.
If you go into open source expecting to get paid, then you're gonna have a bad time.
If you go into open source for the accolades, then you're gonna have a bad time.
If you go into open source with a true desire to improve the state of the art, then you might be able to succeed.
We (https://sheetjs.com, our most popular library https://github.com/SheetJS/js-xlsx has over 11K GitHub stars) combat that by intentionally removing our names and egos from the equation. We are happy to see others use our open source code in their applications, and are constantly surprised when high-profile projects like React end up using our code (https://github.com/facebook/react/blob/v16.0.0/src/renderers...). Our intentions are clear: the open source offerings give us a test surface far larger than any proprietary solution, and for that we are extremely satisfied with the results.
Many open source developers start with intentions like "advancing the state of the art" and over time become disappointed because others build businesses and profit off of their creations. The intention at the onset wasn't to make money, and continued investment of time and money into OSS should be weighed against the original intention.
We are elated when we find others using open source SheetJS libraries and code in their profitable business applications. Others may regret and wish they didn't open source, but you don't know how things would have played out if you didn't open source. The yardstick we apply to our open source contributions is whether we're advancing the state of the art, since that's why we entered the space in the first place.
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14886481 is a similar comment that probably better reflects the opinion expressed here.
(note: we ended up developing paid offerings after conversations with @patio11 and others. https://www.kalzumeus.com/2015/01/28/design-and-implementati... discusses these points)
My takeaway from your bullet points is more specific – that you shouldn't bother with open source unless you want to advance the state of the art while being perpetually unpaid and unrecognized, which I can not agree with in any way.
> Many open source developers start with intentions like "advancing the state of the art" and over time become disappointed because others build businesses and profit off of their creations.
I just don't buy this distinction of starving artists vs commercial enterprises. Especially as the project grows in scope, complexity, and popularity you might need to spend more time on it to keep it in good shape, and time does not come for free.
While you might have been willing to spend 10 hours a week on it for free, the now-grown project would really benefit from you working on it full time, but that's not feasible to you, so you turn to monetizing it. There is nothing wrong with wanting to both advance the state of the art and to be paid for it.
It's not about being disappointed with others making money off of your project, it's about ensuring sustainable development of your project.
If OSS projects weren't funded by a chance of money or fame, we'd have much less such projects available to us, especially significant ones, because not everyone who currently contributes to OSS can afford to or even wants to work full time for no pay. I don't know why that would be a desirable outcome to anyone.
"advancing the state of the art" is fundamentally different from "money" and "fame" insofar as the latter involve social effects that you have less direct control over. To make money, someone else has to pay you for something.
Why should someone be forced to walk away from a project that became popular if there is an option to monetize it to support its growth?
"Lastly, we have consulting and support, which I think is a dead end. It certainly works on a smaller scale with individual developers, but it falls apart when trying to build a company. "
That seems like a very odd claim to make in support of Redis Labs making this controversial change restricting other people's rights to charge for consulting and support.
How? For me the interpretation is straightforward: if you create OSS in the hopes of making money from it, you might succeed but the odds are overwhelmingly against you.
Ultimately, the only success guaranteed when you open source a piece of code is the fact that you... Open sourced a piece of code. There's now a new library/tool/application out in the world for everyone to see.
That's how I interpreted the other comment, and I wasn't even too charitable.
In my sibling comments I explained more about disagreeing with the starving artist vs business enterprise false dichotomy.
All the pro-"Common Clause" reporting I've seen has focused exclusively on cloud providers, omitting the prohibition on even "consulting/ support services related to the Software". This reaches further than most license agreements for fully-proprietary software, to the point where I'm stunned that it's even legal.
Thought experiment: is a paid employee of a company working with one of these Redis modules considered to be providing support "for a fee or other consideration"---and thus in violation of its license? Is it illegal now to teach a class on how to use RediSearch?
If your company uses Babel (which it probably does), please donate to Henry or at the least, send him a thank you for his work.
1 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0sfFX7WH1c
2 - https://www.patreon.com/henryzhu
I posted my own thoughts about over-committing and potential burnout a few months back: https://blog.isquaredsoftware.com/2018/06/redux-writing-resp... . Since then, I've stepped back from trying to keep up with recurring treadmill tasks like cataloging articles and links, and am focusing my maintainer time on some specific Redux/React-Redux issues. Feeling a lot better as a result.
This also gets to the biggest criticism I have of the FSF: the only measure of success is a narrow definition of "freedom" -- with little to no discussion of what social systems, economic structures, and advocacy might be useful and/or necessary to support those aims.
There are, in reality, three ways that open source software comes to be. The first two are heavily subsidized (educational/academic proof of concept and internal projects by larger companies which are open sourced to cut maintenance costs). In the first case, academia subsidizes the software and in the second case the software exists open source to try to reduce the burdens on one company. Kafka, etc. are good examples of the second.
There is a third approach which I have also used which is the the customer-sponsored-development model. This works well with a certain kind of application aimed at vertical markets in business. Here you expect those who need new features or support accounts to subsidize maintenance. This is also how a lot of larger open source software projects that escape academia effectively work.
In all cases there are two distinct issues. The first is subsidizing the initial development. This has to be subsidized somehow because often times getting to a minimum viable project is a lot bigger than folks expect. Academia and big business are the two major ways these often happen here. But then the second is subsidizing continued development and maintenance. Here there are different approaches. One can use pay-for-development/support models or expect users to contribute patches (depending on the context of the open source project either one might actually be viable and beneficial and the difference is who is paying the paycheck, and what the relationship is between the user and developer).
Besides that the obvious point is that every open source producer is entirely free to release their product under whatever license they see fit and if you don't like it then simply don't use the product.
I’d like to make all of the software I write freely BSD licensed.
If I do that, it seems with very high probability that it might turn out to be a time sink and a money sink with no benefit other than +reputation. Which is worthwhile, but perhaps not as worthwhile as those fat stacks.
I don’t know. We’re heading for a future where the only people that can afford to write OSS projects that actually influence the world are those who work for FAANG or in academia.
The elephant in the room here is that the usual OSS-as-an-offering model works from the fact that intimate knowledge of the software and visibility creates a strong market position for selling services (SaaS or consulting) that others cannot match. Whereas if "others" includes Amazon, GCP etc., their economies of scale and market visibility tilt the playing field in the other direction, making it harder for the OSS-as-offering model.
Maybe something like this would be more fitting:
Way down to the wire
It gets bleaker than ever
Try and copy this
What it would do is mean that a lot less people would be able to use the software as it's a license that is not allowed at most companies. You can argue that this is for the wrong reasons, or it's due to fearmongering, but that doesn't change the fact.
I think you have it backwards: a less popular project could be viable with BSD and wouldn't survive as AGPL.
Why? If you want to make money off of it, there is nothing wrong with selling proprietary software. I'll gladly open source lots of stuff but I'm not just going to work for other people for nothing -- that's just madness. And that isn't really what free software / open source is supposed to be. It's not a platform for martyrdom.
I think the strength of an OSS project (or really a single individual at that stage) can be to innovate - make something that in a corporate setting, FAANG or not, can't be pursued because it hasn't a chance to become projected since business value isn't tangible, and anyway needs meandering around to find solutions in its problem space. Once something demoable is created, it might attract corporate backing. But corporate development is actually very bad at developing the kernel of something not seen yet. Maybe there should be a market place for initial designs/concepts to grab beyond VC funding?
Why do you think that?
That is not universal across all the developer community. Here, in Colombia, open source is something you do on the sidelines.
Pretend you can live of it? That is non-sense.
I know companies following this model all over the world: Spain, Brazil, India, Argentina, Venezuela, etc.
The Patreon approach is not sustainable in the long-term, neither is the company sponsorship route.
Charging for support as the principal source of your income is probably one of the least appealing options for most developers.
Open-core is one option - GitLab wouldn't be a financial success without it. Dual-license is another option.
What does the FSF (Free Software Foundation) have to say on the matter? Charge for distribution . Yet, no-one can realistically charge for distribution today - not least when so many projects are hosted for free on GitHub.
If you want to make source code available and still be paid for your product - consider something like the Fair Source License. It's neither closed source or open source. It will appear blasphemous to some open source advocates, but it feels like a reasonable compromise between closed source and permissive open source licences: https://fair.io/
RedisLabs made some extra software available (nice) under a noncommercial-only license (well duh but ok), pretending some material relation between the noncommercial-use-only license and the Apache License (not nice).
The pitchforks and torches are (to 98%) about that last bit. Everyone is happy that Redis still exists and that Antirez and RedisLabs have a sustainable business around Redis. No one - and potentially especially not the Apache foundation - enjoys the bait-and-switch of using the Apache name for a proprietary shared source license.
Sometimes those same developers will leave that wealthy company to start the commercial vehicle for that project. They talk about the wonders of open source and free software.
Obviously their next move is to monetize the project with commercial add-ons and they end up charging 6 to 8 figure price tags for 'free' software. Their enterprise customers justify this by saying 'we have the source code for the core product...its open source so we won't get locked in'. But the likely hood that some overgrown Fortune 2000 IT team will use the forked source code and not the shipped enterprise product is basically zero.
At that point, the FOSS nature is just a farce. It might as well be proprietary software at that point. There's no way the same company will prioritize the community over the high paying customers. They take over the development of the core open source version. They end up hiring all the main contributors. They find new ways to monetize it. They build add-ons that are end up being essential to using the same project in production. Its no longer a community-driven engineering meritocracy, but simply an enterprise development team with a github page.
No. This is reprehensible garbage. This license is not endorsed by the Apache Software Foundation.
EDIT: removed "proprietary"
This software is licensed under a mixed OSS/commercial license, the Apache 2 OSS license with the commercial Common Clause restricting certain freedoms.
Using the text of the Apache License 2.0 as a point of departure is fine. But please make it clear what you are doing.
The difference between this and the restrictions in other OSS licences is that the "common clause" restricts core freedoms - if you attach it to something, that something ceases to be an open source licence, this clause transforms into a commercial licence that prohibits free use of the software. There's nothing mixed about it, it's a "not-OSS" licence.
By all means keep the common core concept for Redis but I urge you to get as far away from this toxic “Common Clause” pseudo-license as possible.
It would be far more productive to state your particular disagreement(s) than to inaccurately apply labels you think will tarnish the target of your ire.
It's a set of anti-commercial license terms and is definitely proprietary by Free Software and Open Source definitions.
So isn't it possible that powerful corporations pushed and continue to push this OSS ideal, the ideal that you do meaningful work, that you'll bask in glory at the end of it, that your name will be carried on by armies of software developers until the end of time? Isn't it possible for all of this, or at least partially, to be just marketing coming out from the hands of people who really know how to tickle our emotions?
How much would git or linux or emacs cost to develop? Instead, they are developed/maintained partly by armies of "passionate" developers who get zilch for they work. But they are used by money-loving corporations for free. Now isn't that convenient.
Here’s what I don’t like about it, in essence. If we are going to have a (and I think sometimes justifiably so) position of companies are using our OSS product to make millions but don’t contribute back us of justification, there are really two things that come to mind to me that are highlighted
1. Thst culturally we have a bias orientation of take vs give. If so many companies can get away with this because their customers don’t care, I think that shows we have a long way to go toward promoting an equitable culture. It’s not a a government thing mind you. I think OSS organizations need to spend more time educating their target audience of how to have this balance we all seek of making sure huge corporations aren’t rent seeking on the backs of hard working volunteers. It is a problem, I think, in many industries and not just ours, which brings me to point number two.
2. You owe it to everyone I think that if this is your stance, name the perpetrators
Why no list of companies one by one? What they are doing isn’t illegal but if collectively enough of their base is upset about it to move away from them to different ones that is the sort of selective ness we want right?
That is if your argument is a cogent one and not just a way for you to monopolize dollars in your dominant position as the provider of that software.
In essence, if there alleged companies have done this alleged wrong, lay it or for everyone to see. If your argument is succinct and worthy it’ll stand on its own two feet
Words matter. We need to stop calling it free time. It's not free. Nothing is free, and certainly not a limited resource such a time.
Personally I'd like to see one of the major OSS code hosts (e.g., GitHub, GitLab, etc.) incorporate payments (read: donations) into their system. If I could load say $25.00 in credits to my account I could make a donation with a click. The receiver - or anyone for that matter - could keep the "cash" or put a bounty on a bug or new feature.
If Github and Gitlab (and maybe Bitbucket) had the balls to build something like that, I think things would improve. Users would be impacted, so it would be essential to get some help on the PR side from established projects and bodies like FSF, Python Foundation, and so on. Getting the big companies onboard should be easy enough - just give them a flat-fee yearly subscription option that they can spin in a nice Bloomberg release on how they support innovation and blablabla.
You would likely still see cheapskates setting up their internal mirrors and so on, but with the right price structure, I bet most medium-to-big shops would accept it and start generating substantial amounts for OSS projects.
One problem I see is that most open source doesn't get consumed as source code but via language package servers (Rubygems/NPM) or OS distributions (Debian packaging Redis).
For other packagers and OSes: packages don't happen out of thin air: someone has to write recipes and scripts, and test them. So that's already some revenue right there, especially from the big players. Companies like RedHat and Ubuntu could just cut a flat $10m check every year, distributed to projects proportionally in accordance with OS-provided stats like popularity-contest. That's the easy option. Ideally, you would also have some buy-in from the major OS distributions that could somehow "trickle down" the model to their own packages (say, linking a VCS repo to an OS package and reporting activity accordingly: "You asked to apt-get install Redis, but I've checked with a webservice and you have already downloaded it 2 times from Github.com today: time to pony up!". In most cases, this sort of link is already documented formally, somewhere in the package definition.)
Like newspaper paywalls, it doesn't need to be perfect; it just has to be enough hassle that most people who can afford to make the pain go away, will just do that.
I think all of these things work for certain projects. They work less for mission-critical but un-flashy components (i.e. the "how do we adequately fund OpenSSL?" problem, which was solved by having big money corporates endow funding for it). They work more for user-facing stuff. So they're a good option.
But I don't think they're materially superior to the other models for sustainable OSS (maintainers working on OSS projects as 20% type tasks at their day jobs; companies selling service agreements and hosted versions of OSS components; very large companies simply being public good providers). They're just another part of the puzzle. I do agree it might be slightly more convenient to offer them as part of the public-facing code repo stack.
In this case, it's not clear to me Patreon style development funding would have worked near as well as Redis Labs being a corporate sponsor.
There's still the marketing issue. If I was to work on open source full time I'd need to get about $2kAUD a month. That kind of income doesn't just happen - you've got to have an extremely popular project first.
Also remember that Patreon's gotta start making money for the VCs soon so there will be user hostile changes eventually.
Bring on universal basic income.
I used to think this way about OSS before I actually had to run and maintain a significant project. Add to that trying to build a business and those two together have formed my current view. In my ideal world, everything would be permissively licensed, but that doesn't match with reality. And every major open source maintainer I've ever talked to has acknowledged that tradeoffs are made. Either in the form of what is open, how it's licensed, or how the project is funded.
No one bats an eyelid about that.
> If the Commons Clause license is confusing or ambiguous to you, simply treat it as a commercial license...
I have to say, this really is the issue for me.
It's got both Apache and Commons in the title, that probably means its even more free than the apache license right?
No? Wait... so I can use it for free? Or am I reselling it? I guess I need a lawyer if I'm going to touch this stuff now right? Mmm... no. I think that we can safely put all of those modules in the 'never use for any purpose' box, thanks.
This kind of thing, seems like deceptive conduct, and that's something that is anathema to stable businesses looking for infrastructure to use.
Licensing is important, it should be clear and unambiguous in naming and purpose.
They're complaining about the weird/impossible 'clause on top of open source' and 'existing OSD' (as if there's another new one) language in Redis' announcement and the 'Commons Clause' website
Yep, I think that would make it better too.
Redis: BSD (or whatever OSS licence)
Redis X module: Redis non commercial License
Redis Y module: Redis non commercial License
To be fair, if they'd just said hey we're selling these proprietary licensed modules then there wouldn't be much of debate. As others have pointed out, many other OSS projects do just that.
Instead mass confusion has erupted and literally every word debated ad nauseam -- including, now, the model.
The current software gold rush in SV like any gold rush is driven by greed and dreams of wealth and has no place for ideology. It is all about taking whatever spades are available. They don't even care about open source, if they had to pay for the spades they would, it just that open source happened to be around.
Once this 'taker generation' gets to their 40s and 50s they will start thinking more seriously about the ideology and start contributing back. What else will they do, coders need to code. And the cycle will continue.
The only thing to watch out for are increasingly complex 'open source' projects backed by corporates. These are just like closed source projects in that they not amenable to the individual or small team incremental dynamic of open source.
FAANG sponsor open source either for strategic reasons (the Kubernetes example in the blog) or as a goodwill exercise. To the kinds of engineers Facebook would love to hire to help serve ads more devilishly, React goes a long way to making the company look developer friendly. These projects get a ton of marketing support (time to promote the project, brand name, etc) that an all-volunteer nights and weekends grassroots open source project can never complete with.
Then there’s open core, which seems to struggle from the difficulty that open source has a kind of altruistic halo around it, and any attempt to commercialise or restrict parts of it (especially for things that were once open) is seen as bait and switch. Yet to see an Open Core company that isn’t continuiously torn between what it takes to keep the business viable and what it takes to keep the community on their side.
Consulting and support has its own downsides too. It only scales linearly as you can hire people, and the margins are much lower so it takes a lot more people - much less fun of a company to run. And it influences the project roadmap too: “yes the setup process is broken and could do with a wizard, but the complex install process drives a lot of our consulting leads”.
It seems like the huge companies that were threatened by open source have been replaced by huge companies that know how to weaponise open source. Open source still wears a certain halo thanks the nights and weekends code hacker that does it for the love, but open source at any scale is as corrupt - maybe more corrupt - than any proprietary company.
(Disclaimer: my company sells proprietary software but gives customers source access/right to modify and open sources many of the building blocks. As someone who wrote code for the love of it, I often feel like there’s something evil in not making everything open source. But I’m yet to see a less evil open source model)
You can't burn a village to save it; nor can you invest in open source by closing it.
Yes, the goal of figuring out how to support free software developers is a noble one, but denying users Freedom Zero is hardly the correct way to go about doing so.
: I write 'so-called "Commons Clause"' because it's really an anti-commons clause: by using it, the software is removed from the commons.
The reality in a few years time will be a multi-cloud environment where it's the cloud itself that will be commoditized. So let's make great open source projects work well with that:
1. Provide X options for deployment on many clouds/orchestrators - k8s, terraform, serverless, etc.
2. Work on top of clouds and easily integrate with them, e.g. use existing permission systems of AWS, GCloud, Azure, service discovery systems, secret management systems, parameter systems, log aggregators and many others. So in this approach, pricing would still be controlled by the OSS company, by paying for machine time or per-request.
Yes it was. It has since been edited to be clearer.
> Redis has adopted a new license I've been working on w/ a talented team.
The Redis mentioned here. I believe, actually means Redis Labs, not Redis the project.
2. I would like to see a world where Universal Basic Income pays for all the basic necessities of life for everyone. Then you won't get such unnecessary sentiments like "they would like to quit their job to work on their project full time, but can't". People would do things like write music, practice religion, learn new subjects, engage in philosophy, raise children and take care of elderly parents, all things that aren't rewarded well by the current economic system.
I suppose this funding-model could work for maintenance work too.
I get that done tech infrastructure startups are frustrated that users demand open source, open source let's established firms sell services, and the commotion from established firms makes it more difficult for the infra firm to establish a most and extract revenues...but, I don't see why users should compromise on their preferences just to make it easier for those startups to make the kind of returns investors demand.
“My business model doesn't provide enough money” -> “the market should change its demands” is... interesting reasoning.
I recommend the Lemonade Stand document by Nadia Eghbal (https://github.com/nayafia/lemonade-stand) as well as the Sustain Report from the Sustain Summit last year (https://sustainoss.org)
There are other channels as well. Open Collective has been doing an amazing job as well as Carbon Ads.
This, in a nutshell, is the driving force behind the EU's antitrust investigation of Android.
Only if you're equally honest in admitting it's the most risky approach wrt sustainability and therefore the one most subject to strange capitalization mechanisms (and endless blog post justifications for them :-)). They go out of business all the time, leaving stale software in their wake that might have otherwise had steady maintenance if independence and growth were less paramount (like before commercialization where, in many cases, the burden was just as large). Either way, it's definitely the hardest model and if you have a piece of open source software that must have growth or you are currently no longer able to sustain it, I would try to find any other way possible to finance it...but I agree sometimes it's just not there so you build a business around it.
And I'd change "developing" to "financing" since there are many more honest ways, just not at scale.
If your opensource project can't live without "life support," it's a failed project. It means nobody wants to keep it alive.
No such prerequisite is for 9 out of 10 software packages you see in any serious software repo.
I now run a graphical Linux desktop with fully functioning graphical UI, all done without a dime of sponsorship money, or corporate life support of any sort.
No "well funded corporation" in the world can pull out making an OS with graphical UI from scratch these days. That's simply beyond even heavyweights like google and apple with their countless battalions of coders.
Now say, who has more power there?
Why it is such a problem for guys making software for web ecosystem if open source desktop community can pull out doing things many many many times more hard and complex?
I myself draw a mental line in between a genuine open source projects, and those which are masquerading as such. In reality, those are failing commercial enterprises trying to earn "coolness cred"
Given that the only large company that is actually successful with open source as a business model long term (Redhat) follows this model, that shallow statement seems pretty tone-deaf.
No, we've discussed this time and time again:
Open Core = crippleware
Articles like this occasionally come out and promote propaganda that masks "crippleware" with nice sounding words.
- Changelog has interviewed me about this https://changelog.com/podcast/236
- Hackernoon has published me on this https://hackernoon.com/the-implications-of-rethinkdb-and-par...
I maintain a tremendously popular Open Source project with 8.5K+ stars, and it is extraordinarily hard. (Hint: Imagine Firebase + IPFS had a lovechild, that is what it is. See my HN profile if you are curious.)
I should be the first person agreeing with this - last year was one of the hardest times of my life because of doing Open Source. But this is the moral, harsh, but important:
Financial hardship sucks but does not define the values of Open Source.
The values of Open Source has removed financial hardship for many, and made lives better for the masses.
Just like you should not gamble on crypto what you cannot afford to lose... you should not Open Source what you cannot risk.
Open Core = crippleware: Faux companies publicly wearing sheepskin to look like they're developer friendly, but privately are forced to shame you into the fox's den.
Open Source = giving, truly. It has hurt me at times, but those values have brought more win+win to my life and others, far beyond we can count.
So thank you, to all real Open Source developers out there. You are heroes.
I don't agree with the tweet at all. I too thought MIT/BSD are good licenses, until I got burned by a piece of code majorly consisting of MIT code infringing my user rights - unwarranted tracking and a few bugs I couldn't fix. I now understand why (A)GPL exists and make sure my projects infringe on no users' rights like projects containing MIT/BSD can.