One of the biggest challenges for open source software today is sustainability. Everyone knows software is free but the time put in by contributors is not. A truly “resilient” open source community needs to move away from “voluntary” contributors and to a more sustainable model where there is guarantee that the product grows and prospers independent of volunteers. For this there are three models:
- Foundation Model - Work is supported by a foundation
- Services Supported - Work is supported by profit making companies, who give direct services on the project.
- Cross Subsidy - Work is supported by profit making (but loosely related products), like React/Facebook, Chromium/Google, who do not directly monetize the open source offering. (This is somewhere between 1 and 2, but depends on a very profitable sponsor company).
Currently we are in Model #2. Primary contributions come from Frappe Technologies that is supported by services around ERPNext. Thanks to ERPNext’s popularity, there are many other service providers too, but contributions are not as many.
Very few contribute, as they see this as an additional overhead, and this is 100% legitimate use of Open Source. No one is “required” to contribute anything. A few service providers also have private modules that they sell on top of Open Source ERPNext. This is questionable practice, but there is no real way to stop this either.
Moreover, the incentive of service providers is for end-users not to directly consume ERPNext, thereby creating an survival crisis for them. We have to accept this is the way of society.
This brings us to the only true way to sustain open source -> “The Foundation Model”. If we as a community are able to raise a reasonable amount, say $500k to start with, we can ensure that the product remains 100% open source. For this we expect the community to contribute directly and also help us get grants from other funds who can support this work.
During this conference, let us keep this the focus of our discussions. How can we survive as a 100% donation / grant funded organisation and how we can be truly independent from commercial interests that will, for legitimate short term gains, threaten the long term open source nature of the product.
As key contributor and maintainer of the product, I am interested in keeping ERPNext 100% open source. Lets make this happen!