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Companies paying it forward in open source


I recently saw that Mozilla launched its amazing “Open Source Support” award program:

According to some research, at least 78% of companies are using open source in some fashion (my personal guess is that the number is higher). The fact that the Mozilla corporation realizes that it needs to give back (on top of all the work they already do), is incredibly progressive and I hope sets an example moving forward for others as it can help solve the tragedy of the commons issue that many open source projects face.

For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, tragedy of the commons is:

the depletion of a shared resource by individuals, acting independently and rationally according to each one’s self interest, despite their understanding that depleting the common resource is contrary to their long-term best interests.

The key problem here is that organizations who cannot be excluded from the benefits of a good often have little incentive to contribute toward the production of that good. This is essentially known as “free-riding” and is common in open source land, even with projects that are successful.

There are many ways to tackle this problem, whether it’s through a restrictive license, guilting people to donate, or just setting up a foundation with membership rules and dues to ensure that a particular bit of software is properly funded.

These days, I’m taking a more positive outlook on this issue as I keep seeing more companies setting up open source program offices or even funding projects/developers important to their business (see this recent Capital One example below, which by the way recently established an open source program):

I think this trend will continue as long as we in the free and open source community push for it. At the end of the day, we are in it all together. The more we can convince organizations to give back, especially the ones that have strongly benefited, the more all of us will get back.

My challenge to you is to push your respective organization to give back, whether that is financially or in some other way.