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How do open source software developers make money? Lots of clever schemes

How do open source software developers make money?  Lots of clever schemes

The amount of money that can be earned from open source software largely depends on two factors: its popularity plays a paramount role – the higher the better; developer activity is also extremely important. If the creator quickly answers community questions and solves emerging problems, systematically maintains the current state of the code and openly contacts potential partners, plus or minus the promoted project will bring enough money not to even think about additional sources of income. By the way, there are a lot of options for monetization that you can use in this case.

Web developers who use ready-made NPM libraries to simplify the creation of sites, they should have thought at least once how exactly their creators earn. Did it really occur to someone that all this was just naked enthusiasm and charity?!

Services for the end user may be paid

→ payment can be accepted for at least some

One of the easiest ways to make money from your users is to offer paid support to those who need it. If a developer is well versed in both his tool and the codebase in general, he can offer additional advice to his clients. Imagine that a novice web developer cannot figure out how to connect and set up a banal conditional Notiflix — a tool for displaying notifications on a website with an extensive customization system. He may well acquire a consultation in order to raise his professional level and not waste time on the empirical method of research. It seems that this method of monetization is difficult to scale, but no one prevents a developer or a company from creating an entire department for this, which can be systematically expanded.

Subscription model can be implemented for business

→ there will be no restrictions for ordinary users

Open source software can be monetized using the SaaS (software as a service) model. It is most relevant for projects that are not a separate element of something, like NPM libraries, but a complete product. It could be a feature rich traffic monitoring tool, marketing automation software, or a content publishing platform. Let’s assume that the conditional Vimeo offers a ready-made platform for publishing open source videos, which, with small settings, could be integrated as a repository with videos for some of your projects. In this case, the creators could, on a paid basis, deal with the security, maintenance and support of something based on it. The developers of the project itself could focus specifically on it, and not on ready-made video storage.

Order additional features for a fee

→ the basis of the project remains absolutely free

It is not easy for small projects to generate income. For example, it is extremely difficult to imagine how exactly you can make money on the NPM library basicLightbox, which I myself often use to create the simplest possible modal (pop-up) windows. However, for me, for example, it lacks a standard reaction to keyboard actions on the desktop – even to close the window by pressing the Escape key, you must first add keyboard listeners, and then remove them (correct if the noob Junior or just did not figure it out). I would gladly pay to avoid writing a couple of lines of primitive code each time. Such small (and they may well be large) improvements could be a good way to monetize your work.

How do open source software developers make money?  Lots of clever schemes

Open Source Sponsorship Program

corresponding program working on GitHub since 2019

“Invest in open source projects that you depend on. Contributors are working on them in the background to make open source better for everyone – give them the help and recognition they deserve.” (github)

Developers of open source software may well pursue it by receiving donations of voluntary funding from those who use it. This initiative has been supported for several years GitHub. It is curious that the version control platform and a huge hub for open source software in any form does not take a commission from developers at all. 100% of the funds that come as donations go to support software creators. However, it is important to understand that there are a number of alternatives for GitHub, such as Open Collective or Patreon. Without sponsors, large projects that have proven themselves and are used by many in their work can go to the bottom.

Using the SDK and API on your services on a paid basis

→ developers can pay a commission for their use

There are plenty of interesting services on the web that offer APIs for third-party developers. With it, they can extract some useful information from them for their own needs. Imagine, for example, that you want to build an app that tells you how to dress when you go out, based on weather data. The idea is curious, but it needs information – where to get it from? Of course, you can negotiate with some weather stations or other structures around the world. However, it is much easier (and much cheaper) to use the API of a proven weather service, which will make it possible to obtain weather information for a specific request. A limited amount of data can go away for free, but after the commercial launch of your own project, you need to pay some kind of commission to the open source resource.

How do open source software developers make money?  Lots of clever schemes

How do open source software developers make money?  Lots of clever schemes

You can also use the open core monetization model

→ at the same time, add-on plugins are closed and paid

Open core applications are an interesting alternative to open source projects. The idea is that the developer does not open his entire program, but only part of it. The rest of the code is licensed as proprietary and distributed for an additional fee. So it turns out that some small companies without special requirements can use only the open part, while large ones may need closed elements. However, it is important to understand that this particular model is considered quite difficult to implement from a technical point of view, therefore it is not used so often. It is much easier to implement any of the mechanisms proposed above, but not to separate the application code into public and private.

▶︎ Fact: In addition to those presented in this material, there are many other direct and indirect ways to make money on open source software. At the start, even venture investments from those who want to receive a share of the potential profits of the product after the start of its monetization can be considered.


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