Economic Sustainability for Open Source projects

Economic Sustainability for Open Source projects

Q: Why would someone do open source, rather than charge for a service?
A: (Alex) Charging for my service wouldn’t be compatible with the future I want.
Erik: Open source enables that as many people as possible can utilize your service.
So how do you make it economically sustainable? Eg. funds, corporate sponsors. Could we make decision work better? Could we make progressive funds (ie. escalating over time based on success)
“What do you think about decreasing expenses, rather than increasing prices?” We still need to be able to give developers enough to survive.
Types of open source: eg. libraries, Mastodon,

Q: Why is ‘freemium’ not viable? A: hard to implement it in a way that does not limit the use. Only works for software as a service. How about other services?
Are we looking at a new emerging way of open source? License 0 (ie. if you’re not a company and not making money off of it, it’s free). Parroting license - due diligence. Would make it possible for commercial users to be forced to pay for it.
A business model problem - we need good coders in bulk. Coders need to pay the rent. Rent is going up. Coders don’t want to be martyrs. Commercial employers pay well. How do you get enough money into a project to make it great?

Q: What types of open source projects are struggling with funding. Open source does not give return of investment for investors. Funders necessarily need to not be expecting direct returns.
‘Bundlesource’ ‘board of users’ that can take decisions on prioritizing features.
‘Tragedy of the commons’ half of our fundings come from one person who is on a monthly donation. Most other donors give small donations.
Eg. John says he gives up to 5€ a month, but only 1€ a month pr. one other person who also donate 1€ a month. If 5 people also give 5€ a month, they all give 5€ a month.

Q: Whcih business model for software is thriving? A: ads, venture capital, software as a service.
Q: What donation model works best? A: patreon, governments, churches . Create a religion and make billionaires pay a shitload of money.
Discussing the potential for developers go on an international coding strike.
As a coder, if we are faced with the option between getting really well paid and doing what you believe in - it’s hard.
If stakeholders are small, independent people - does propaganda/outreach have a role to play? Could expand the base of donors. More users also mean more bug-fixing for individual people - lots of legwork.
How is open source understood: ‘The code that makes up the product is publicly available. The product itself is sometimes free too’.
If open source starts getting public traction, lobbyism starts becoming an opportunity. Microsoft is lobbying for their cases, open sources needs theirs.
Hb open source government? Resource allocation problem
Governments are becoming more fluent in understanding how data affects the public space. Very reactionary, not very progressive.
Scuttlebutt is aiming to find ways to live with decreased expenses (ie. less dependency on dominant system) to give more space for creating an alternative.
The movement needs salespeople! Churches are being successful raising money
Open source does offer the individual return of investment for the developer in terms of offering value to the community, which offers both a sense of purpose for the developer and goodwill from the community. To monetize this
Idea of making a documentary about open source. There’s a powerful narrative in offering an alternative to facebook, google, etc. ‘We don’t actually need any of it’. Point: raised awareness does not necessarily create. Lots of people are concerned about privacy.

Main takeaways

Organize an open source strike
increase solidarity
Create a documentary to inform people
Start a religion, lobbying group
Incentivized donations (bigger donations give bigger rights? patreon)

Feedback from audience: Great idea with religion - religion is the opposite of economy, a place where exchange is not measured. Religion is mostly focused on giving service


I initiated/lead this discussion and have since also discovered Gitcoin | Explorer, which is extensively used by the Ethereum community to fund public goods.

The Ethereum Foundation have contributed a matching pool of $100,000 which is distributed using quadratic funding. It’s now in its fourth iteration, and the third one was reviewed by Vitalik Buterin here: Review of Gitcoin Quadratic Funding Round 3

I could imagine something similar being created but with matching from the EU or other government institutions (perhaps earmarked for particular categories of open source) with great effect on the sustainability of open source.


Thanks @ErikBjare! I pinged a few people on scuttlebutt about this. Probably copied you, I don’t know :laughing:

@Emile @ErikBjare @erik_lonroth @MariaEuler

So I did a twitter search for “open source maintainers” and discovered a treasure trove of resources, activities etc that might be of use for this discussion:

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