The Open Source Business Model

by Jeremy Jones

How do open source projects sustain themselves? In the financial sense, I mean. Sometimes, a large corporation will offer a project funding. Or perhaps they will hire the primary developer and allow him to continue working on the project, as Microsoft has done with IronPython. But what about projects who aren't fortunate enough to gain that class of corporate funding? Or who aren't actively seeking it?

Most open source authors that I know of aren't writing their software for the money they hope to make with it. They work on it because they love it and would do it even if there is no hope of gaining funding of any sort. They work on their projects in their spare moments before and after the job that pays the bills and when they aren't enjoying time spent with their families.

Sometimes, a project gains a large enough of a user base that the project's author is able to offer his services around the project on a paid basis. Recently, Kevin Dangoor, the creator of TurboGears, announced that he would be offering consulting services around TurboGears, primarily development of TurboGears features, coaching, and training.

I love seeing open source authors take the initiative to help fund their project by finding a way to charge for their time on it. This is a win-win-win situation. It's an obvious win for the project author since they get paid for doing something they love. It's a win for the person or company who is paying for the author's time since the author is an expert on the subject. And it's a win for the community because the primary author is able to devote more time to the project. Kevin, I'm sure you'll get plenty of business. I wish you much success in this endeavor.


2006-03-09 13:39:52
I can speak only about the Italian IT market. The main problem for italian Open Source software consultants (I'm One of them) is a market where 60 % of the small business softwares is pirated (XP, Office Suite, Autocad). So is very difficult to convince a corporate customer of the financial benefit of Free Software like Open Office, or about a samba server , because all the software installed in several small firms is copied (and a pirated copy it cost you 0 €). So in my opinion if we want to boost the Open Source business Model, we need to stop piracy first.