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I've been working in Open Source for a long time now - decades. The problem I see is that so many rich and wealthy companies (and their billionaire owners) are the big beneficiaries of open source. Look at Spark, Hadoop, Linux, gnu tools and others - who uses them at a large scale? It is the wealthy companies who avoid paying salaries for the development of those tools. So I've become convinced that we should distinguish between small companies and large companies, and that small companies should get to use open source, while the big wealthy companies should be required to pay. It should be analogous to the free software given to education - with restrictions in license. (Of course, this won't happen. I'm just sharing my perspective.)

The situation we have now -- that no ISV can make a living -- is precisely the result of decades of making software Free and Open such that it has become a commodity. The only money to be made left is in services, and that market is increasingly captured by AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Services, leading to centralization, stagnation, and self-referential pseudo-innovation a la Docker (and increasingly, the web). I whish F/OSS purists would focus on solving today's problems rather than defending ideas of their youth.

What do you mean by "solving today's problems" ?

Monopolization, privacy invasion/attention economy, and the demise and weaponization of the web as a medium for misinformation

Crypto currencies have captured 100b+ in value trying to solve those problems. Vast majority of the code is open source as well.

Yes of course. My comment was addressed at those coming up with dogmatist "no freedom 0" arguments when anyone dares to make a living with their work.

The difference between where we think the advantage of open source goes and the reality of who it advantages, overall, is the root of a great deal of confusion and helplessness.

Your point reminded me immediately of this article from late last year:


The article's reasoning struck me as fundamentally sound, but it began with the false identification of open with the public, rather than private, interest.

As for your proposal, have a look at the Fair Source License: https://fair.io/

I blogged initial thoughts on Fair, line-by-line, when it came out: https://writing.kemitchell.com/2016/03/30/First-Read-of-the-...

This post by Stephen Walli is also good: https://medium.com/@stephenrwalli/there-is-still-no-open-sou...

I think Stephen probably coined the "There is no open source business model" expression a couple of years back.

The biggest issue with this is very few "small" companies envision staying small forever. Who would risk building their company on a stack that you lose the license for if you do too well?

I think what really happened is people didn't quite realize, or didn't think it would matter, what they were giving up when they open sourced their software. It sounds good and feels good but 5-10 years later when it's a core component at major companies it feels like you got ripped off even when you explicitly signed up for it.

"Who would risk building their company on a stack that you lose the license for if you do too well?"

A similar question exists for laborers that need to invest in learning tech stacks. Why spend time mastering something that certain companies are discouraged from using? Especially if a non-encumbered variant exists.

Wouldn't it be more practical to learn tech that employers can easily use?

> Who would risk building their company on a stack that you lose the license for if you do too well?

You could frame this in a different way and come to a different conclusion. Instead of describing OSS as a "stack you lose the license for if you do too well" you could say "stack you don't have to pay for unless you're successful".

Which is still worse than "stack you don't have to pay for"

I don't understand how big companies using it is a problem. Is them using it hurting the projects somehow?

The idea is that big companies have money to spare and small companies don't. Therefore big companies should be paying for the benefits they are receiving to support the tools they rely on.

I'm not convinced personally, but I think that's the idea.

I don't agree with the parent's solution. IMO one of the things that open source software has done right is that it mostly doesn't distinguish what you can use the software for.

However, I understand the point being made. It's essentially a tragedy of the commons argument. Because the companies that get the most value from open source are also often the ones with the greatest resources to give back to open source projects if they chose to, they have a moral obligation to do so. There's also a sentiment one often hears along the lines of: I'm fine with people using my work for free but I don't want them making money off it. (This is essentially the basis for Creative Commons' non-commercial variant).

So it's not so much that large companies are actively hurting the projects--though you could argue that hosted offerings compete with the projects themselves. But that they often don't help in anything like the proportion that they benefit.

One might believe that OSS's raison d'etre is to increase equality in economic opportunity. If you see OSS dev that way and you see corporations like Google and Facebook as opponents of that cause, then if you agree with GP's statement on who the beneficiaries are, you might also agree with GP that there's a problem.

You're basically asking for a tax or some kind of goodwill payment large companies should make. Nothing wrong with that in theory but many times large companies use open source SW in areas outside of their core business, I do that every day, to solve everyday development tasks that have nothing to do with the widgets my company makes. If you look at it that way it's pure redistribution. Again, I'm not against that but this kind of proposal will have an uphill battle.

The big bank I work for pays for red hat and hortonworks. And the other banks I've worked for do too.

So all the examples you give are funded by big companies. Works perfectly.

You do that and companies just switch to a comparable and freer platform... From linux to BSD, from Mongo to X... etc. In the end, a lot of these changes are to stop resellers from building a larger business on the open-source version that competes with their own open-core model.

In the end, they probably should have had those provisions to begin with, but were more concerned about early growth and first to market.

> You do that and companies just switch to a comparable and freer platform... From linux to BSD, from Mongo to X...

That's only sustainable for as long as there are those comparable and freer platforms to switch to. But if the argument being made here is valid, that is not guaranteed.

Well, we live in a society. In theory, it should be possible to define any law we want in order to improve our society. Of course, the rich control the government in the entire world, so I don't expect anything like this to happen (and they also control the press, so most people are convinced of the "goodness" of greed.)

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