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A cure for unfair competition in open source

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OSS
Drupal

In many ways, open source has won. Most people know that open source provides better quality software, at a lower cost, without vendor lock-in. But despite open source being widely adopted and more than 30 years old, scaling and sustaining open source projects remain challenging.

Not a week goes by that I don’t get asked a question about open source sustainability. How do you get others to contribute? How do you get funding for open source work? But also, how do you protect against others monetizing your open source work without contributing back? And what do you think of MongoDB, Cockroach Labs, or Elastic changing their license away from open source?

This article (in five parts) talks about how we can make it easier to scale and sustain open source projects, open source companies, and open source ecosystems.

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Part 2 From Dries Buytaert on Parasites That Hurt FOSS

  • How takers hurt makers in open source

    In part 1 of this article, I introduced the concept of open source Makers and Takers, and explained why it is important to find new ways to scale and sustain open source communities. Here in part 2, I’ll dive into why Takers hurt Makers, as well as how the “prisoner’s dilemma” affects the behavior of takers.

    To be financially successful, many Makers mix open source contributions with commercial offerings. Their commercial offerings usually take the form of proprietary or closed source IP, which may include a combination of premium features and hosted services that offer performance, scalability, availability, productivity, and security assurances. This is known as the open core business model. Some Makers offer professional services, including maintenance and support assurances.

    When Makers start to grow and demonstrate financial success, the open source project that they are associated with begins to attract Takers. Takers will usually enter the ecosystem with a commercial offering comparable to the Makers’ but without making a similar investment in open source contribution. Because Takers don’t contribute back meaningfully to the open source project that they take from, they can focus disproportionately on their own commercial growth.

Last part of the series in which Drupal's founder explains FOSS

  • 3 suggestions for stronger open source projects

    If, like most economic theorists, you believe that organizations act in their own self-interest, we should appeal to that self-interest and better explain the benefits of contributing to open source.

    Despite the fact that hundreds of articles have been written about the benefits of contributing to open source—highlighting speed of innovation, recruiting advantages, market credibility, and more—many organizations still miss these larger points.
    It’s important to keep sharing open source success stories. One thing that we have not done enough is appeal to organizations’ fairness principles.

    While a lot of economic theories correctly assume that most organizations are self-interested, I believe some organizations are also driven by fairness considerations.

    Despite the term Takers having a negative connotation, it does not assume malice. For many organizations, it is not apparent if an open source project needs help with maintenance, or how one’s actions, or inactions, might negatively affect an open source project.

    As mentioned, Acquia is a heavy user of Varnish Cache. But as Acquia’s chief technology officer, I don’t know if Varnish needs maintenance help, or how our lack of contribution negatively affects Makers in the Varnish community.

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