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Open Source Businesses Software The Almighty Buck

Open Source Payday 129

Posted by timothy
from the and-ya-takes-yer-chances dept.
itwbennett writes "The recent Slashdot discussion on the open source community's attitude on profits neglected an important point: 'no profits' doesn't mean 'no money.' There are plenty of open source not-for-profit organizations that take in millions of dollars in order to pursue their public-minded missions, and some pay their employees handsomely. Brian Proffitt combed through the latest publicly available financial information on 18 top FLOSS organizations to bring you the cold, hard numbers."
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Open Source Payday

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  • Electrician.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:21AM (#39464847)

    If I need a new electrical socket, I may hire an electrician to put one in. I pay him some money.

    Yet, the specs of the socket, the wiring, how to connect them all up are easily available and in the public domain, for free. After he's connected the socket, I can see his work, I could even copy it to add my own socket in another room.

    The electrician would be paid money for what he did. He does not fit sockets out of 'love'!!

    Why should Open Source software development be any different?

  • by nzac (1822298) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:21AM (#39464851)

    As long we can obtain the source code for free (as in both beer and freedom) does anyone care if someone found a way to make a profit off it?
    I would much rather give a company selling FOSS related products so they could profit over someone else.

  • Re:Some do (Score:4, Interesting)

    by turbidostato (878842) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @06:14AM (#39464939)

    "You find a number of people like OSS not because it is free as in speech but because they don't want to pay for anything."

    Which they have perfect right to do. *I* don't want to pay for anything, from software to Ferraris. When I pay for something is because I *have* to do it.

    "were completely opposed to the idea of paying for any software."

    I am basically opposed to the idea of paying for something that it is already done, payed for and that has zero replication costs too.

    Paying for writing new software or servicing said software, both of them activities that have obvious production cost tagged to them, on the other hand, I find perfectly reasonable.

    "How they expected developers to put food on the table I'm not sure."

    I'll tell you. By doing what they are qualified to do: writing software, not distributing software of tagging artificial scarcity to something with no replication costs.

  • cash cows (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gbjbaanb (229885) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @08:14AM (#39465243)

    there are aspects of 'non profit' where there are no profits because the directors pay themselves such large salaries that there's (strangely!) no cash left over each year. I don't consider these non-profit at all.

    eg. from TFA:

    the Mozilla Foundation generated the highest compensation levels for Baker and Eich who, while receiving no direct salary from the Mozilla Foundation, were compensated $589,953 each from "reportable compensation from related organizations" and "estimated amount of other compensation from the [Mozilla Foundation] and related organizations."

    "Related organizations," in this instance, is the Mozilla Corp., the for-profit subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation that generates much of the Foundation's revenue.

    With a revenue of $1,934,659, the Mozilla Foundation ranked fourth of the eighteen FLOSS-related non-profits researched for this report. But with a net cash flow loss of $1,333,815 for the 2010 fiscal year, the Mozilla Foundation was next to last on money lost for the year.

    so, basically Mozilla Corp pays Mozilla Foundation cash to make stuff that the corp then sells/advocates/etc. Only the foundation sat on a net loss of $1.3m, yet the corp paid its 2 directors $1.2m..... hmm.

    Now I don't mind the directors making a reasonable amount of money from the situation, we all got to eat after all, but I'd say a more reasonable remuneration would be more like $100k, not nearly 600k. And I totally disagree with directors sucking the non-profit cash-cow dry.

  • Re:Stop lying (Score:5, Interesting)

    by suy (1908306) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @09:05AM (#39465531) Homepage

    Seriously, just stop. The FLOSS community hates to pay money and thinks no one should make any money from software. All one has to do is look at comments on Slashdot to see that.

    Well, I'm going to lose the moderation point that I just used, but I have to reply to this.

    Dude, you can't judge the way the FLOSS community thinks because of the comments on Slashdot. First, because you will have to prove first that Slashdot is a non-biased sample of the community. Second, because normally the comments on one news entry are the reaction to that event, not a proper statement from such community.

    And if you want more, here is one small piece of evidence: 9000€ collected in 3 months to fund Nepomuk [wordpress.com]. Nepomuk is one of the most hated and/or more controversial pieces of KDE 4.x. From what I read on the KDE related sites, lists, etc., many people are quite vocal in stating that they don't want Nepomuk and want to disable it, or get rid of it as a forced dependency. And still got some love in the form of money.

    Oh, and remember the figures from the Humble Indie Bundle: Linux users of the bundle paid (a lot) more on average that Mac or Windows users [lifehacker.com.au].

  • Re:Stop lying (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rgbrenner (317308) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @11:35AM (#39466341)

    And if you want more, here is one small piece of evidence: 9000€ collected in 3 months to fund Nepomuk

    Nepomuk is a desktop framework that cost 17 million euros to develop [europa.eu]. And they raised 9000 over 3 months?! That's only 3k/mo... not even enough to hire 1 developer. And you expect that one person to maintain an entire desktop framework?!

    If they can keep that up, in just 472 years they will have collected enough to pay for the initial development costs.

  • The problem with FOSS is what I call the "Busted shitter dilemma" which you ran into when you couldn't find a replacement for Vegas. As you pointed out taking one of the existing FOSS editors and bringing it to to Vegas level? Really really REALLY not fun, instead it'll be long, slow, headache inducing thankless work. Since as you have pointed out it is VERY difficult to make money with FOSS except in some very niche circumstances that work simply doesn't get done.

    I bet the FOSS editing software you looked at had lousy or incomplete docs, obvious features missing, and one or more nasty bugs that had been well documented but not fixed. That isn't because all FOSS software is shit, its because of human nature. We humans love to create new things but HATE long boring tedious jobs. Ask for someone to write you a song or paint you a portrait for free? you'll probably find several willing to do so. Ask them to come fix your busted shitter? Watch as you have ZERO willing to do this, its just the way it is.

    That is why I have been saying for years we need a NEW license, one that will allow companies like Canonical the ability to get paid for fixing busted shitters. Wouldn't it be nice if Canonical didn't have to flail around trying to find some way to make money, like slapping together Unity and trying to sell it to TV and phone OEMs that will never bite? Wouldn't it be nice if instead they could pay developers to ONLY make things better? Better docs, QA, regression testing, insuring that all software fit the UI conventions, in short making a truly world class OS? Wouldn't that be nice? Because like it or not for every creative job you have in FOSS you have 100 that are about as pleasant as being the guy that cleans up the puke at the Chuck E Cheese. So instead we need a new license i call the "Hard Work" license, because I think we would all agree if you bust your ass you should get to be paid for your labor. here is the new license:

    1.-You are allowed to have the code, 2.-You are free to modify that code for personal use in any way you desire, 3.-If you distribute that code YOU MUST PAY for a license, which must be offered.

    See how simple that is? You still get ALL your freedoms, even the freedom to distribute (since the other company can't just refuse to sell you a license) but those that actually fix the busted shitters can be paid for their doing the thankless jobs nobody will do for free. Imagine how truly incredible the FOSS landscape would be in less than 5 years...Vegas? There would be software MUCH better since the devs would get feedback direct from the users and wouldn't have to depend on selling new features. Operating systems? Apple and MSFT are stunned when the latest releases come out and ALL the complaints have been wiped out, all drivers are solid and stable, upgrades never break, all the docs are well written and helpful, the entire ecosystem thanks to having the users and devs tied tightly together and the devs having a monetary incentive to listen to their users causes a complete change, no more itch scratching and "will not fix" blowing off the users since those that strive for a "it all just works perfectly" mantra get rewarded for their hard work.

    Its really simple folks, the GPL works in SOME places but not ALL places and I would argue not even in most places does the GPL license work. It works in both servers and embedded because large corporations make money on those servers and embedded devices and thus see it as an investment, this model simply doesn't work on the desktop or on software that will primarily be used on a desktop. What you end up with is what we have now, where companies that try to treat FOSS as more than a hobby blow millions before finally folding for lack of a way to recoup costs. The landscape is littered with the dead, gOS, Xandros, Linspire, Novell, Mandriva any day now and within 3 years Canonical. If you want the desktop software to get beyond some guy's hobby and the desktops to have more polish than "Bob's distro" then you simply have to

  • Re:Electrician.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ihmhi (1206036) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Sunday March 25, 2012 @04:24PM (#39468501)

    Most open source developers will do this. If you want a feature, we'll quite happily give you a quote for implementing it. I usually work on a fixed price, so I estimate how long it will take, multiply that by my daily rate, and will do it for that amount. Even if projects don't advertise it, a mail to the list saying 'I want this feature, what will it cost' will usually get some replies...

    Consider my ignorance of the fact a hint that maybe you guys should advertise it a bit. Think of all the people who are not taking advantage of something they otherwise would had they known it exists.

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