Finally I’m finding some quality time to open this thread.
I would like to discuss some ideas, “a thought process” if you will, on “financial sustainability” side of open source.
As I mentioned earlier, my main interest on open source is about re-usability of the knowledge and the freedom around it. And from a personal point, see me as a developer “who wants to get in”, “who wants to work for open source full-time”. So, I would like to focus on more “the outsiders/the potential that we miss” part.
Current state of the open source tells us that if you want to “share your knowledge”, you should more or less have to give up your income. And one could decide to be an idealist and still make the switch, but clearly this wouldn’t be sustainable in the long run (personally I made a similar attempt couple of years ago, and now I’m back to being a freelancer).
In other words, “idealism is not sustainable”, and open source shouldn’t be based on that. If we want to maximize the potential of open source, we should be able to create an environment that open source is not a temporarily, volunteer act but it should be a regular, long-term paid job for any developer, regardless of their motivations.
You can take these ideas as my starting point.
In the following parts, I will write some statements, hopefully as short as possible, starting with these points. In return, you could reply by saying “Agree/Disagree/Unclear” for each statement. Of course you can write a longer response too.
I have to say that I’m trying something like this for the first time, and it’s very well possible that it won’t lead to anything exciting, practical, or it might be completely off the track. But let’s try and see how it goes.
Part I: Intro & Definitions
Open source license is a legal contract about “sharing the knowledge”; “here is how we build this software and we allow everyone to re-use our solution”. The other alternative that we have is the proprietary license; it doesn’t giveaway both the knowledge and the rights. Benefits of open source will be discussed further but between the two, we can safely assume that open source is not the lesser option.
Every individual/organization has a cost to build their software and they aim to deliver a certain value with their solution. Choosing which license to use (sharing the knowledge or not) is a separate decision than rest of the parameters. It won’t affect the cost of the product, and it cannot affect the value that it delivers.
This means, that if a commercial software company wants/decides to “share their knowledge” by switching from proprietary license to open source, they cannot/should not get less income for their products/services.
The solution they created is the same, therefore the value and the income must be similar as well. If the company is going to get less income, the consequence of this would be, that the company simple cannot make the switch (and cannot share their knowledge), else they would likely to get bankrupt in the long run and be out of the game.
Similarly, if a software developer starts working on a open source project as a full-time job, she cannot/should not get less income/salary than the market average.
Again, the work is the same, so income must be similar as well. Otherwise the developer cannot get into open source in the first place, or this would be a temporarily position. The developer would move on, when they get bored/burned out/run out of idealism/find a better paying job.
In other words, if using open source license affects the income of the companies/developers, and this prevents them to switch to open source, this means that we have a “financial sustainability” problem.
Or, from the other way around, the bar for “financial sustainability” of open source should/must be similar to market average in the software industry. Only if open source gets to that level of income, this issue could be considered solved. And naturally, reaching this level enables any regular software company/developer to get into open source (it would become a two way street).
We need better studies than this one, but according to Gratipay, Open Source Captures 0.02% of the Value it Creates.
a. So, we spend money on software, but it doesn’t flow into open source.
b. If a regular software company would like to get into open source, they would be losing majority of their income.
c. Open source side, with its limited resources, cannot hire/keep best minds and talents for a long period of time.
Therefore, we can conclude that there is definitely a “financial sustainability” issue in open source.
I’m planning to continue with the following:
Part II : Problem
Part III : Benefits
Part IV : Causes
Part V : Solution
Thank you for reading. And again, it would be great to have some feedback