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Corporate or VC Funding Turns Free Software Into Proprietary

Posted in Finance, Free/Libre Software at 11:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Who pulls the strings?


Summary: Commentary on funding that comes with strings attached and what this means to freedom-respecting software

Nginx, which is basically proprietary software except its very core (like OpenX [1] and other companies that misuse the “open” label), received some more funds [2] and to some — like IDG (or IDC) — the only number that ever counts is money [3]. There is a new platform called Open Funding [4] and it’s said “to help speed up the development of free and open source software by financially supporting the developers.” Generally speaking, Free software should be funded by users, not outside companies, which usually seek to get money back — a “return” on their “investment”. Usually, although not always, there are user-hostile strings attached to the latter type of funding (the former has strings tied to users). This might help explain why Nginx stopped being Free software in the first place. The same type of thing happened to various other projects, some of them famous like MySQL.

It is not always a victory when a FOSS project attracts funding. It very much depends on where the funds come from. Nginx does well in terms of market share [5], but not in terms of freedom.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Nginx Raises $10 Million in New Funding for Server Development

    Open-source server vendor Nginx will use the new financing to help fuel both its community and its commercial efforts.

  2. OpenX Sells Open Source Ad Serving Product

    Sale of OpenX Source Ensures Continuity of OpenX Community

  3. Greed is good: 9 open source secrets to making money

    Low-cost marketing, hard bargains, keeping competitors in check — profiteering abounds in the open source community

  4. Open Funding for free software

    A crowd funding platform for free software projects has reached beta state and already transmits the helping requests of various FOSS development teams. The name is Open Funding and the mission is to help speed up the development of free and open source software by financially supporting the developers.

  5. Nginx: this Russian software is taking over the internet
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