Open Source is unsustainably funded

 

and this is very bad for YOU.

Open Source Software (OSS) is software that everybody can legally copy, modify and reuse for any purpose, without paying license fees. OSS is not an hobby for software geeks. Even the code that makes the Internet and a major part of every service running on it is Open Source.

One or two days ago a Solopmon Hykes [explained very well what’s wrong in OSS funding today. Among other things, he writes that:

  • The way OSS is funded is fine for its origjnal applications: learning, fun and research. But inadequate for its new role as the software guts of the Internet. Open-source is critical infrastructure now. We should fund it like roads. Volunteers and philanthropy are not enough.
  • Imagine if roads were funded like open-source infrastructure today. Maglev super-highways from the Googleplex to downtown SF; a few miles of artisanal cobblestone roads here and there, maintained by volunteers on sunday, and sponsored by the local businesses; mud everywhere else.

Real world example: heartbleed

Open Source is unsustainably funded /img/unsustainable-open-source.jpg
Hand in the water: Open Source. Hand from above: Big Tech (*)

As explanation for the reader, a textbook example of this sorry state of things is the so-called OpenSSL/heartbleed case: OpenSSL is OSS code used by many websites and other online applications to encrypt traffic sent to and from their users. Hearthbleed is the name of a critical security flaw in OpenSSL discovered only in 2014, many years after its “birth”.

Theoretically, being OSS, everybody could have found Hearthbleed. But since no single entity is responsible for bugs in OpenSSL, nobody, including companies that made and still make billions thanks to OpenSSL, cared enough to fund more than one person to work full time on it.

[This current way to fund OSS] is not sustainable but, says Hykes, it benefits Big Tech so they won’t fix it. Excellent point.

The solution: United Nations for Open Source

Quoting Hykes again: “Public infrastructure cannot be optimally funded by uncoordinated private funding. That leads to a local maximum, in which we are currently stuck… We already have a transnational private sector… In many ways, what OSS needs is a transnational public sector…”

And here is how you can help make it happen:

Demand all your public administration, from the city to state level, to only use and accept, for all digital communications, really open formats for files and communication protocols. How and why this is essential to make the world a better place is explained in this talk and in these posts.

(*) Image Source: apparently, this tweet

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