Crowdfunding Open Source

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I know various people who sing the praises of Apple’s OSes in part because of the quantity and quality of apps. Or conversely criticize Linux or to a lesser degree Android because of the lack thereof. I get the pragmatic appeal they are making. But then, referring to the apps, they say things to the effect of, “where can I PAY money to keep them going”, and they lose me a little bit. Is the utopia of open source, yet maintained quality software somehow out of reach, or out of reach on specifically on open platforms maybe, as this type of thinking seems to imply?

I don’t think it is, but I am not certain how to explain its overall lack of realization. This isn’t to say open source stuff is bad. It isn’t! I use it almost exclusively, and manage to be mostly productive and not frustrated with it! But, generally speaking, open source options often either don’t exist, are missing some features, or are lacking some polish compared with proprietary options.

Even if that is not mostly true, it is true often enough to maintain that impression among most people I know who have an opinion on the topic. I have been glad to see more crowdfunding and such for open source projects. The donation model isn’t new of course, but the ways to do it have certainly expanded and the popularity of crowdfunding in general has exploded. Personally I try to contribute funds for projects that I use, but I always struggle to decide how much money throw in the hat. Should I contribute what I would guess a license for similar software might cost, based on how frequently I use - or would potentially use - it, or based on how much I want to see this missing piece of functionality added to the ecosystem? With crowdfunding gaining popularity and becoming easier to initiate I have been hoping to see more quality and increasing options emerging on Linux, and that is happening, but it seems slower to happen than I would expect honestly.

Maybe another way to say it is that it simply isn’t terribly clear whether there has been an increase in the pace of general development or the willingness to stick around and maintain and refine a project. And if there has, it’s not to the degree I would have expected now that the crowdfunding option has emerged the way it has. One possible cause is that somehow crowdfunding doesn’t yet feel as legitimate as it should to the type of people who typically fund software development.

Many, if not most, people who pay for software licenses barely understand the distinction between open source and closed source software, so in part a failure to jump on the crowdfunding bandwagon isn’t surprising, however, I know a number of tech savvy OS X and PC users who have the philosophy of “I want to financially support developers of good/useful software”, but sometimes it seems like they are only interested in doing that through the license/closed source model, and not so much via the crowdfund/open source model. Like somehow the later isn’t sustainable or doesn’t qualify as legitimate support somehow. Maybe my perception is just off on that, but if not then I wonder what causes/perpetuates that, and I wonder what can be done to get over that and get us closer to software utopia.

2020 update

Kickstarter, Patreon, OpenCollective, etc. Funding isn’t quite the issue it was, and more large companies pitch in and claim to love open source. People, by in large, still don’t understand the distinction between open-source and proprietary software