Re: An OSS living

On 04/07/2009 06:22 PM, joshua rh comcast net wrote:
I recently had a spirited debate with a friend about proprietary
software. His main thing about it was: it's where we make our money as
developers. My arguments were: better software, more potential, more
compatibility, and doing what you like to do. Most of his questions
we're something to the effect of this: How can you make a living when
your software is free? I too would like to know if any of you out there
make a good living developing open source software, it seems like what I
want to do, but I don't quite know where I would make my money (I know
Canonical does support for Ubuntu) developing open source software.


Hi Joshua,

The reasoning behind "How can you make a living when your software is free?" is like saying "How can Google make money when their search is free?". See what I mean? Sure, their search is free, but developers writing it get paid by Google. Google earns money by selling ads.

For example, I write GNOME libraries, Red Hat pays me. Red Hat has an interest for GNOME to advance, because that's what it includes in its products. Red Hat then gives this software away for free, but earns money by selling subscription / support / training / etc.

There are companies using GNOME on mobile devices like internet tablets, GPS devices, educational devices, or even breast cancer detection devices. These companies need to enhance GNOME in various ways to suite their needs better. So they either hire GNOME developers, or contract them. The GNOME contracters go ahead and start their own company, and hire other GNOME developers. That's how we ended up with so many small European GNOME shops in the past few years.

Google has thousands of developers writing C code. They have a vested interest in improving the C compiler they use, which happens to be gcc. So when they hire gcc developers to improve gcc, they pay them, and Google as well as the community enjoys a better gcc as a result.

In short, there are more ways to make money than selling software. There's lots of good stuff to read about this online. Just Google around.

Hope that helps,


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