The other day I catched a tweet by André.

Everyone wants free software but very few want to pay/back/donate money to it. How do people expect developers to keep working on FOSS? By doing it only on their free time? this is not sustainable...

Great question! Let's break it down to make it easier to digest!

What is meant with FOSS?

FOSS is a wide field.

As engineer I normally I think of development first. But there's more!

What about design? Or ops? Or completely different subject like education? Or Data Science?

What software are we talking about?

Let's pretend it is about software. What does that mean exactly? Libraries? Frameworks? Services?


Libraries are sets of objects, functions etc which provide utilities for you to use. I observed Foundations adopting those.


Frameworks are normally opinionated. You're adapting your code to their opinions. Most the times I see companies pushing them out. Perhaps a community is continuing it after the company dropped the interest.


Usually you have to care how a service is written but consume it via an API. Almost always run by a company in my experience.

André argued, that this would only be true for large projects.

That doesn't provide a sustainable ecosystem. It does provides the large actors in it with some sustainability though, but how are small developers, who still provide value but in a lower scale, be expected to do sustainable FOSS? This is very tricky.


Another aspect: What is meant with sustainability? I recalled Elio Qoshi mentioning Sustain OSS, so I tagged him on Twitter.

He chimed in and highlighted another project called Open Collect

As the core team of @SustainOSS is also involved on @opencollect among other important projects I actually think it provides more sustainability

André claims that a whole lot of companies are building on top of OSS. Without giving back. People would barely be able to pay their bills.

Because we have a ton of mega corps using FOSS that piggybacks into developers who are barely paying their bills. We have lots of end users who love the apps they are using but don't donate. We need a shift in mindset, similar to fans supporting their artists on Patreon.

I interpret that as exploitation of the developers who maintain that software.

Who would have a motivation of getting paid for their work?

Look, I can very well imagine that there are people out there, who give away their code without expecting a monetary reward. Say students. Or people experimenting.

Paying back

How could a monetary reward look like? Paycheck? Cryptocurrency? Sponsorship?

I can't tell about other parts of the world, but there were projects like Flattr who looked into Micropayments.

Modern approaches I am aware of are Brave and WebMonetization API. My gut feeling is telling me that this isn't enough for a living.

Personally I would feel obliged to please the payer then. Because I could start getting dependent on them. Contrary with OSS, where I could deny liability (e.g. via LICENSE).

Speaking of license... Normally, payers would ask you to develop proprietary code just for them. How do you deal with those demands? What if the community is asking for the same feature?

What about declaring taxes on that income?

Say, you contract with a Payment Service Provider to deal with that. Now you have recurring costs to pay.

You can follow Geoffrey's approach and offer non-free licenses to make some income.


It's a comolex topic. Looking forward to look at slices of it! Sorry for raising more topics than answers.