Which is better success or philanthropy

Fig leaf philanthropy

OSS is programmed by developers who are either employed by an organization such as Linux or Mozilla - but this is the rare exception in the case of Linux - or they are employed by companies that use OSS projects. The developers then modify the OSS in terms of what the company needs. “95 percent of the developers who work on Linux are paid. They may not get filthy rich with it, but they can make a living from it, ”explains Zemlin - this is important for the functioning of this economy, because keeping volunteer programmers free of charge does not work. Just as little as paying them according to how many lines of code make it into the Linux software: The purely development work is focused, asserts Zemlin. What is good prevails. “The idea of ​​sharing and working on code as part of a personal passion is incredibly strong.” It is another pillar of the OSS economy. “The strongest projects, on the other hand, are widely used and create monetary value as products. This value is in turn reinvested in projects, ”says Zemlin. The cycle is completed by companies that provide resources for developers and donations for further activities of the foundation as members or without membership.

Most recently, Microsoft had a “Platinum” membership - according to Techcrunch, it costs US $ 500,000 annually. “Gold” members donate US $ 100,000, and “Silver” members donate between US $ 5,000 and 20,000. If you look at the 259 memberships reported online (11 platinum, 19 gold, 229 silver), the donations amount to an unbelievable US $ 12 million. According to Zemlin, the foundation has a total of 700 members, so the actual amount is likely to be much higher. Members are accepted into the board of directors, so they “buy” themselves participation in the foundation. She has long since established herself as a trend-setting curator in this OSS cycle, which in turn facilitates the donation issue, as the following example shows. “The Hyperledger blockchain initiative is led by Brian Behlendorf. He was involved in the development of the Internet and now he wants to change it fundamentally. He takes on the blockchain as an open source software project and works with companies such as IBM and JPMorgan. The software will be freely usable across the entire Internet. We create an ecosystem around them by convincing companies that they can rely on the code - even for commercial activities, ”said Zemlin of an economy that brought Linux code to a cumulative US $ 6 billion Has.

The Mozilla Foundation works very differently. It is the sole owner of the Mozilla Corporation, which is home to the Firefox web browser, the source of which is also open. He generates income through partnerships on the search bar that appears when the browser is opened. Google was a partner until the end of 2014, and Yahoo has now replaced it. “The Mozilla model is better. You don't have to follow this difficult, sustainable model. In return, we are not dependent on a product, but 700 organizations are dependent on our software, ”said Zemlin. Dependency on the product has likely made life difficult for the chairman of the Mozilla Foundation and the Corporation, Mitchell Baker, for some time.

Firefox's market shares are falling sharply. In November 2009 it still had around 32 percent market share - currently it is in third place with around eleven percent (behind Microsoft Internet Explorer with around 23 and Chrome with around 55 percent). “The challenges in the market are great,” says Baker, who also sees philanthropic engagement as an essential part of her work. “Very few people know that Mozilla emerged from a non-profit organization with the mission to preserve the Internet as a public resource and to be able to help shape it based on our guiding principles. At the same time, we are realizing the importance of commercial activities, ”said Baker, who generated sales of US $ 329.5 million in 2014 that will flow into the foundation. She runs many programs in the fields of education and innovation, is committed to online security and privacy, and lives off donations alongside the corporation's income.

OSS was initially brought into play by visionary developers for philanthropic motives. This well-intentioned freedom has meanwhile become part of an economy in which power and money also play a role - that does not completely rule out that these foundations do a lot of good, but the sometimes outward self-image of acting purely out of philanthropy, wobbles a little.

This article appeared in our December issue.