Paying for Open Source

While Open Source software is free to download, use, and depending on the license, free to distribute, it is not free to creator. The Open Source creators have to pay for hosting, branding (domain, etc.), coding (in time), and distribution. While some are offloading the costs by hosting the project on Open Source aware distribution channels such as GitHub or BitBucket, many projects still lack the funds they need.

The general rule is: if you use it, you should pay for it. How you should pay for it is entirely up to you. Below are several ways you can pay for open source software.

For Corporations

  • Hire an Open Source Developer to work on the project he contributes to
  • Estimate how much it would cost annually with proprietary software and donate 10-30% of the amount evenly to various projects
  • Open Source internally developed software
  • Provide a publicly accessible mirror to an Open Source project

For Individuals

  • Donate a fixed amount annually to an Open Source Foundation such as the Linux Foundation or the Document Foundation
  • Donate a fixed amount to the specific project you use
  • Submit a patch that fixes a bug
  • Submit a patch that adds a feature (bonus points if it was previously requested by another user)
  • Offer support to other users using the program via the channels the creators recognize (mailing lists, forums, etc.)
  • Create a plugin that enhances the project
  • Promote the project you use most
  • Suggest your company switch to the project (using the paid version)

Have a suggestion that was not listed? Submit it in the comments below.

    Matthew Miller

    A suggestion for “For Individuals” — help with bug triage. When new bug reports come in, see if you can reproduce, make sure all the needed information is there, and (depending on the project) tag and categorize the issues. If you don’t have the permissions to do the latter, doing the first parts reliably for a while will probably convince devs that you should be given those privileges. Dealing with bugs and support requests (and support requests masquerading as bugs!) can overwhelm developers of projects, and I guarantee that this will be very appreciated!

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