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Anders Hovmöller
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Open Source could be BETTER


The subject of open source funding is often in the news. Every time this happens the arguments sound the same: “open source funding is broken/unsustainable!” being the most common, with some dissenting that it’s not broken.

I think both “broken” and “not broken” are unhelpful and the wrong way to think about it.

What we have with open source is the rare case of a utopian world, because there is no marginal cost for copies so the work of a few can quite literally power the world.

Open source is neither broken, nor not broken. It’s great but could be so much better. Imagine a world where we made it possible for developers working on core infrastructure to quit their day jobs and dedicate their time fully to their, arguably more important, open source projects. That world could be so much more efficient and move faster. It would absolutely be a better world!

The problem here is that it’s quite hard to know who those people are. It’s also hard to get the funding. Who would you even get it from? There is really only one organization that fits the criteria of being for all humans: the UN. But they certainly aren’t set up for this task!

How about nation states? Probably not. They are known for big prestige projects that burn billions and end basically with nothing.

Companies? Unlikely. They are known for externalizing costs.

So here we stand. Open source powers the world but that work is under funded in something quite resembling a tragedy of the commons. But it’s not a tragedy at all unless you compare it to some idea of what it could be. In fact, it’s a triumph of the commons!

Open source might be best funded by universal basic income, but good salaries for day jobs and hobby hours are the next best thing. With all the flaws it’s still a utopian world far outside the experience of anyone not deep into open source.

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