Despite many pessimistic predictions, open source is popular as ever and continues to strengthen its position. But the real paradox is that many IT businesses today depend on solutions with open code base even more than regular users.
What proprietary software aficionados were so afraid of during the last twenty years has now become true. The survey conducted by North Bridge shows that around 90% of companies are totally fine with using open source software.
Moreover, it allowed them to improve on such aspects as efficiency, innovation, and interoperability.
But is that really so?
As a full-cycle web and mobile development company, JetRuby also relies on various open source software. For example, our backend developers use Ruby and Elasticsearch to build smooth and scalable websites with flexible search features, while Swift helps us to develop user-friendly iOS apps. Our clients’ projects are deployed on servers powered by Linux distributions. Ubuntu has been one of the standard operating systems in our company for years.
In fact, there is a bunch of other open source software that has made its home in our stack of technologies: Ruby on Rails, Angular.JS, MongoDB, Python, React.JS, Gitlab, and many others. All of these tools and programming languages have allowed us to improve our development processes and consequently deliver projects to clients faster.
Finally, open source software is just more secure than corporate software. If that comes out as a surprise for you, then you probably have never heard of the Linus’s law: “many eyes make all bugs shallow”. It boils down to simple mathematics. Most of the people who develop open source software are using it themselves, not mentioning that there can be up to tens of thousands of people involved in just one project.
As a result, bugs and other defects are found and eliminated very quickly. The report from Coverity, a software testing company, confirms this. In a nutshell, they analyzed more than 1500 open-source projects including FreeBSD, LibreOffice, Hadoop, and some others. The results showed that open source software contains less bugs per one thousand lines of code than corporate software.
So, if things look so great, why should you support open source software financially? Why would companies want invest into something that is so commercially unmeasurable as open source? From a business perspective, that kind of move hardly makes sense. You’d think…wouldn’t you?
The reason is quite prosaic. Open source is not the horn of plenty. You can’t keep taking something for free, expecting it to last forever.
The advantages of adopting open source have their price. When your company depends on a technology that was created by somebody else, it becomes exposed to a certain number of risks.
For example, what do you think would happen if the framework your whole infrastructure is based on, ceases to be supported? Surely, if there are thousands of developers working in your company, then you’ll probably be able to allow a team or two on supporting that framework and that’s that. But what about small and midsize businesses?
For them, finding an adequate replacement could be extremely challenging both in terms of time and money. That’s not mentioning potential reputational damage because of failing to continue development and/or maintenance of clients’ projects.
In order to avoid that costly risk, companies need to make sure that the open source technologies they rely on will continue to be relevant and thrive in the future. That leaves you with two options: free community support and money donations.
The first one is quite simple. You can contribute to development of new features, discuss them on forums, help with catching bugs, etc — we’ve been doing that for many years now. In the short term, it does help.
But, in the end, it’s money donations that play the decisive role and here is why. Open source projects are the opposite of commercial software, so they have neither budget nor means to market themselves. At the same time, people who develop code for open source are usually volunteers, which means they’re paid elsewhere. So, unlike your business, they won’t lose much if their project stops.
Luckily, the Internet offers many ways to donate to open source. One of them is opencollective. You can think of it as an advanced crowdfunding platform, where people can pick any of the available projects and help it financially. You’ll be surprised by the number of open source projects that are listed there. Dokku, Babel, RuboCop, Gulp.JS, redux-saga, Mocha.JS, and many others. The list is really huge there’s some names you may have heard of too!
The website allows you to make monthly donations or become a sponsor. The difference between those two boils down to how much money you’re willing to donate. The first option is cheaper and mostly intended for regular users while the second one is more for businesses.
In addition, the advantage of giving a larger sum of money is that your company’s logo will be placed in the section with sponsors both on the website and the GitHub page of the project.
By the way, most recently we’ve donated to Webpack, a technology that has arguably made the Internet and frontend development what it is today. Since many of our projects that involved some frontend development are built using Webpack, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to support it. From this perspective, the profit of supporting open source financially is obvious. Doing that:
- Increases the chances of the specific technology to receive updates and develop in the future;
- Shows the community that your business appreciates the effort of people who work on open source;
- Simply promotes your company;
- Sometimes allows you to affect the future of not just a single technology, but the whole industry in general.
The Bottom Line
Open source isn’t a brand or a corporation. It’s a community of people like you who volunteered to help in solving other people’s challenges. As a result, the quality and, more importantly, the future of the open source technologies that your company uses depends on this community and its motivation. That’s why supporting open source with money donations is important as they facilitate the development of both the technology itself and the people that are around it.
That’s why we do it and why we think you should too.