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Open Source Businesses Software The Almighty Buck

Open Source Payday 129

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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  • by WaywardGeek ( 1480513 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @06:55AM (#39465023) Journal

    I agree. Frankly I'm shocked about the low numbers reported. Surely the author of Python deserves more than $30K/year? I'm not a big fan of the coders behind the GTK+ code base. Could it be partly because the whole Gnome organization runs on about $500K/year? Maybe that doesn't buy very many good coders? Apache makes practically nothing. How is that a good thing? I had no idea that our collective generosity added up to so little. I mean, we seem to be able to put together a couple hundred million in small donations to elect president, so why can't we help out some of these organizations a bit more. I donated something like $50 last year to the FSF, and $100 to NVDA [], the free screen reader for the blind. I figured that makes me a stingy SOB... gee a whole $150 in a year. And that was my most generous year of FOSS support ever. Still... don't we add up to a bit more than a few million?

    The top earner, Mozilla Corp, is getting $300M/year from Google. So, combined, Mozilla is making something like $301M/year, assuming no other major cash sources exist. In short, Mozilla is rolling in cash, but they only have to report on the $1M. I would not be surprised to see several million in compensation per year to their top earner. How many other organizations on this list play similar tricks, having a private commercial side to make all the cash, while reporting as if they were poor starving do-gooders?

  • Re:Some do (Score:3, Insightful)

    by firefrei ( 2569069 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @07:34AM (#39465111)

    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.

    So what if the replication costs are zero? The work to make the software in the first place isn't free (we're assuming of course a for-sale product), so compensating for said effort is appropriate. It might take quite a number of sales before the costs for developing a product breaks even. Then there are the distribution costs, which even if it's something as simple as a server requires upkeep and maintenance costs.

    Your position doesn't match the realities of the real world and no-one would take you seriously if you tried doing business with such a position.

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

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @08:10AM (#39465229) Journal

    Why should Open Source software development be any different?

    Wrong question. The correct question is why should software development be any different? Back in the day, putting software on disks, boxing it up and distributing it was a large part of the cost of development. Now, with the Internet, distributing software is basically free. Writing software, however, still takes time, which means it takes money (even if it's just opportunity cost). In fact, given the increase in complexity of software, it often costs a lot more than it used to.

    So does it make sense to do the expensive bit (creating the software) for free and then try to charge for the trivial bit (copying the software)? Absolutely not! It would be like your electrician putting in the socket for free and then charging you a small fee every time you turned it on or off.

    I write quite a lot of open source software. Some of it I write because I want to use it. Some of it I write because I'm paid. The people who pay me are almost always people who want to use the software. It's usually much cheaper for them to pay me to add a few features to an existing project than to pay a team of people to recreate it. I get paid to write it, so I'm happy. They get the software that they want to use and don't have to worry about EULAs, license audits, or hidden costs when they scale up their business, so they're happy. The only people who are unhappy are the ones trying to cling to a business model that doesn't make any sense.

  • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @08:40AM (#39465357) Homepage Journal

    The people who do the real work don't.

  • Microsoft's fault (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@gmail.BOHRcom minus physicist> on Sunday March 25, 2012 @09:21AM (#39465655) Homepage Journal

    When Firefox corrupts Microsoft Windows it often damages operations in Windows that are not connected with browsing.

    That Windows allows itself to be corrupted in a way that survives killing firefox.exe is the fault of Microsoft (for defective Windows code) or of hardware manufacturers (for defective driver code).

  • Re:No money (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday March 26, 2012 @06:25AM (#39472643) Journal

    You seem to be missing the reason why most software is written in the first place. It's not done because someone wants to make money, it's done because someone wants to use the resulting code. This accounts for 100% of the open source code I've worked on. Some projects I've started because no one else provided the tools I wanted. Some projects other people started and I've contributed to because it's easier than rewriting everything.

    Clang is a good example: it was started because Apple wanted a modular [Objective-]C[++] front end that could be used in a compiler, in refactoring tools, for syntax highlighting, and so on. My first contribution was to support the GNU Objective-C ABI - something of no use to Apple, but a great deal of use to me. I didn't get paid for this directly, but having a decent compiler for Objective-C stuff on Linux/*BSD has helped me get paid for other stuff. I've since done paid work on clang for other companies that needed other features implemented, or other systems supported.

    Clang wasn't started in the hope that its authors would be able to get people to pay, it was started because its authors' employer needed it. It was open sourced because that helped reduce the cost of development for everyone involved. Apple probably could have kept it proprietary and developed in house, but then companies like Google and ARM, and individuals like myself, wouldn't have contributed anything, so their costs would have been higher.

An elephant is a mouse with an operating system.