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Jeff Atwood has an interesting post about Open Source Billionaires and why they aren't any. I find this topic very interesting as I always enjoy researching differences in open source vs. commercial software. At one point in time I write a paper for an English class that spoke about the differences between the two.

As Jeff states in his posting, there really is no true "revenue" so to speak from the actual software. We all know that it is free and thus is why it is open source. The project might get enough contributions to support webservers/integration server etc... That is required to run day to day activities. The code is contributed by people that enjoy doing it in their spare time, or who add on to the software for their own needs and then give those changes back to the project as a "thank you". It's really quite amazing.

This is where a Gift Economy comes into play. People are no longer paid by direct revenue from the software, but rather from fringe benefits if you will. People start hiring the developers to do other projects for them, after seeing how good their software is. They are asked to do talks, and gain alot of notoriety and publicity from the software that was originally written. The Castle Project is a prime example of this. The founder of the project, hammett started his own consulting company called Castle Stronghold which provides software design and support for large projects.

Before rambling on too long about the gift economy, I will state that we may have not seen any open source billionaires yet, but I am very interested to see what will happen in the next decade. I doubt that we will ever have any open source billionaires, but we will definitely see a large increase in the number of open source millionaires. The whole open source market is becoming more agile and efficient as it chugs along. I can't wait to see where it goes from here.

There is something rewarding about contributing to something that you know others will use. You feel like you have been useful more than just than making money, but actually helping someone out with something. Much like when you answer a forum post, or a newsgroup question. More and more people are realizing this and there is a surge of people wanting to contribute to open source projects now. It feels like something is starting to turn, maybe not the tide but definitely something. We'll all have to wait and see =)

Posted on Tuesday, April 24, 2007 10:28 PM | Back to top

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