Funding Open Source: Saddle Up, Don Quixotes

July 30, 2020

I read “A New Funding Model for Open Source Software.” The main idea is that the current approach to financial “support” of open source software is broken. I agree, particularly if one looks at the problem from the developer or developers in the “community.”

The fix, according to the write  up, is “sponsor pools.” Here are the details:

Every month, you donate some amount into a “wallet”. Your funds are then distributed to the projects in your “sponsor pool”. Your sponsor pool is just the set of open-source projects you want to support. Adding new projects to your pool should require one click — as easy as starring the repo on GitHub. That’s it. It’s hardly ingenious, which is why it’s surprising that no major player in OSS has implemented it for facilitating open source donations.

The comments to the post at this link are interesting and raise a number of points, both pro and con.

I noticed that none of the comments pointed out that open source has become the hunting ground for certain large technology companies. Github is owned by Microsoft; Amazon is ferrying open source code into its proprietary AWS walled garden; Google is “contributing to the community” and then using the community as a recruiting supply line. Other techniques are in play as well.

Also, open source is more attractive to large established companies. These firms have the staff and financial resources to make chunks of open source play nicely together. The goal is to eliminate dependence on proprietary solutions, restrictive license agreements, and those necessary maintenance and engineering services deals. Smaller outfits often find Microsoft a convenient way to solve a database problem. Why? It’s available and semi-reliable. Keep in mind that Microsoft bought Github for control and revenue opportunities.

Finally, a number of the comments suggest, “Let Github do it.” Yeah, I really think Microsoft has open source software love as a business motivation. But that’s just my view.

My view is that open source, like other nifty things associated with the “old days” of the Internet may be facing some challenges and not just from Rona.

Stephen E Arnold, July 30, 2020

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