Crowdfunding free software

Last week we participated in the Rencontres Mondiales Décentralisées du Logiciel Libre and we were asked why crowdfunding is a good model to fund free software.

Since we started our platform we came up with many reasons why it may be the best way to contribute to the creation and innovation in this field. Free software development has long been kind of the “underdog” in the development world and this is because people tend to mistake the “free” for “no money” when it really stands for “open”. Stallman famously defined it by free as “free speech”, rather than “free beer”.

So here’s some explanation on why at Open Funding we find it as a great method to go with:

The cost is lower for funders. It’s different if you try to pay the development alone to pay it with a group of people interested in the same project. The crowdfunding model is simple and appropriate: if more people contribute to the funding of a feature, each one has to give less money to make it to the goal. This means sharing the costs of the work.

This can help developers have a wider audience than they would have achieved in a regular way. Through crowdfunging, they’re creating a community, a group of people who’s interested in their work and are willing to pay for it. These users proved by their funding that they are the most likely to engage for their software, so it is a good core for the community. The developer can use them to structure it’s user community. It’s the basics of community management, but crowdfunding is a good tool for that.

But it goes even further. By offering different options of features to fund, the developer can test his community in a “lean startup” way. He will have a better knowledge of his users’ needs and expectations as clients.

Image: 'Crowdfunding'  http://www.flickr.com/photos/16991062@N07/8661000014 Found on flickrcc.net

http://www.flickr.com/photos/16991062@N07/8661000014
Found on flickrcc.net

Because that’s another difference with Open Funding: our platform is not based on donations but service delivery. That means, developers get paid for a job they’re doing and users obtain a product they’ve paid for. This means a new economic model for free software developers.

Today, most developers earn their living though associated services, but that means revenue is not linked with the development effort, and therefore it’s very difficult to have a dedicated resource on development. The software often suffers from that.

Open Funding’s model is meant to be fair with both sides : there’s a results engagement from developers, and users can have the software for less time and money. The project development also is accelerated, because the idea is make possible that developers can invest themselves on this work on a full-time basis. And the payment is secured, developers don’t have to harass their clients to get paid.

With Open Funding the payment is right where it should be: at the core of the community management. Because getting users to pay for a software they need and love is the best way to create a dynamic and engaged community.

So if you’re a developer this is a way to get the funding you deserve and if you’re a user, the way to have the products you’re in need of. Developers’ work is important, here it is rewarded at the level it should, and users participate in the process as they validate the work done by the developer and can even propose new features to the project.

And that’s basically the spirit of free software. Everyone can participate by their own means to make it better and help it grow, so crowdfunding works in this way, helping improve the creation of free software together.

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