We had a session at Sustain Summit 2020 on Business Models for Independent OSS Devs and decided to form a group to further investigate. These were the conclusions of the session:
- OSS work (the high value activity) isn’t what makes money for most independent OSS devs, which is unlike other fields, where the high value activity is directly paid.
- Developers need support from companies/institutions. Need to make it easy to pay for OSS work and auxilliary activities.
- Donations and sponsorhips support only very few full time OSS devs. Biggest challenge here is promoting the project.
There is a lot of experimentation going on to solve the above issues, which is great, but as an OSS dev, it’s difficult to figure out how well the different solutions work, and what is a good fit for which type of project. To fix this, I’d like to start a systematic data collection effort on available business models for independent OSS devs (including donations). The result should be a living document that helps devs pick a model by
- describing each model objectively and
- listing providers for each model with
- the number of projects using the provider,
- the amount of revenue the provider generates for OSS devs,
- the date the provider launched and
- examples and analysis of the successful projects using the provider.
The challenge is keeping all of this objective, as some participants (myself included[^1]) are biased by working on a project in this space. I think this can be overcome by keeping the document in a Github repo where each edit is public and saved for posterity, and where editors’ affiliations are listed. An additional challenge is getting reliable revenue numbers from providers.
Please use this thread to discuss the data collection project and let me know if you’d like to be involved!
[^1]: I have a now sidelined project to provide paywall-as-a-service for open source documentation sites called Dokknet. My personal motiviation in starting this group is to find a way to make a living from independent open source work, not to launch a startup, which is why I made Dokknet open source and forkable.