July 4th, 2003 06:46 PM
New ways to fuel the Open Source software development
If the current open source practices and rules don't entirely cover all real life needs from a developer or consumer standpoint, a new and refreshing alternative adds up to the way how software gets created, unleashing exciting new possibilities:
Sponsorware - sponsored free software , a redefined concept as proposed by sponsorware.org
As the software creation is mostly bi-polar, split into either free or commercial, this may be just the missing piece that can boost the creation of software by stimulating a certain category of programmers who currently can't afford to spend their time producing open source, yet would be enticed to do that for a small revenue.
Since shareware by default is commercial and adware tends to be synonymous with spyware, the sponsorware concept and its proposed rules seek to be simple and efficient. Technically, a group of potential consumers may support and stimulate the creation of a program of their choice by making small donations that can pay the efforts of a programming team. The result will be, however, entirely free software.
By generalizing such a practice, the developers will only have to focus on development instead of marketing their views to seek ways to get support for their creation. Sponsorware can become a distinct way of creating free software for the general consumer or software that specifically targets certain categories of users like professional associations from non-IT related fields like medical, accountings, law, social work, science, educational etc.
As an example, in a real life situation it is technically possible that such a professional association would support the creation of a particular software that would handle a large spectrum of functions needed in their particular field, and by making the software freely available it would make it easier to standardize and unify the work in their branch and allow for easier data exchange.
As for the general consumer the efficiency and usefulness of sponsorware would be in targeting global needs, let's take spam blocking for example. Small donations from such users could quickly constitute into an incentive pool that would entice volunteer programmers to pursue the development of a freeware solution. By doing that, the small group of users that sponsored the solution would have practically sponsored the world with free software.
Hence the difference between the traditional way of creating and releasing open source, and the new sponsorware concept proposed by sponsorware.org: in the traditional way, the software is mostly started from a programmer's initiative, and the creation is entirely up to the programmers, whereas in the sponsorware approach, the consumer will "dictate" and support the free software creation, based on real needs expressed by multiple consumers before the product is made.