Antirez weblog

antirez 552 days ago.
For a decade and half I contributed to open source regularly, and still it is relatively rare that I stop to think a bit more about what this means for me. Probably it is just because I like to write code, so this is how I use my time: writing code instead of thinking about what this means… however lately I'm starting to have a few recurring ideas about open source, its relationship with the IT industry, and my interpretation of what OSS is, for me, as a developer.

First of all, open source for me is not a way to contribute to the free software movement, but to contribute to humanity. This means a lot of things, for instance I don't care about what people do with my code, nor if they'll release back their modifications. I simply want people to use my code in one way or the other.

Especially I want people to have fun, learn new stuff, and *make money* with my code. For me other people making money out of something I wrote is not something that I lost, it is something that I gained.

1) I'm having a bigger effect in the world if somebody can pay the bills using my code.
2) If there are N subjects making money with my code, maybe they will be happy to share some of this money with me, or will be more willing to hire me.
3) I can be myself one of the subjects making money with my code, and with other open source software code.

For all this reasons my license of choice is the BSD licensed, that is the perfect incarnation of "do whatever you want" as a license.

However clearly not everybody thinks alike, and many programmers contributing to open source don't like the idea that other people can take the source code and create business out of it as a commercial product that is not released under the same license.
To me instead many of the rules that you need to follow to use the GPL license are a practical barrier reducing the actual freedom of what people can do with the source code. Also I've the feeling that receiving back contributions it is not too much related to the license: if something is useful people will contribute back in some way, because maintaining forks is not great. The real gold is where development happens. Unfixed, not evolved code bases are worth zero. If you as an open source developer can provide value, other parties will be more stimulated to get their changes incorporated.

Anyway, I'm much more happy with less patches merged and more freedom from the point of view of the user, than the reverse, so there is not much to argue for me.

In my opinion instead what the open source does not get back in a fair amount is money, not patches. The new startups movement, and the low costs of operations of many large IT companies, are based on the existence of so much open source code working well. Businesses should try to share a small fraction of the money they earn with the people that wrote the open source software that is a key factor for their success, and I think that a sane way to redistribute part of the money is by hiring those people to just write open source software (like VMware did with me), or to provide donations.

Many developers do a lot of work in their free time for passion, only a small percentage happens to be payed for their contribution to open source. Some redistribution may allow more people to focus on the code they write for passion and that possibly has a much *important effect* on the economy compared to what they do at work to get the salary every month. And unfortunately it is not possible to pay bills with pull requests, so why providing help to the project with source contributions is a good and sane thing to do, it is not enough in my opinion.

You can see all this from a different point of view, but what I see is that a lot of value in the current IT industry is provided by open source software, often written in the spare time, or with important efforts filling the time gaps between one thing and another thing you do in your work time, if your employer is kind enough to allow you to do so.

What I think is that this is economically suboptimal, a lot of smart coders could provide an economical boost if they could be more free to write what they love and what a lot of people are probably already using to make money.
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