Does Open Source Need Individual Donations to Survive?

In a recent survey by Packt Publishing, 70% of software developers said that they have donated time, money, or both to open source projects. However, with large projects like Wikipedia receiving over one million dollars from just three charitable foundations last year, the question remains whether open source really needs individual contributions from developers to survive.

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These donations are important for the promotion of the project, both online and in enabling us to be present at events.

Birmingham, West Midlands (PRWEB) April 23, 2009

In a recent survey by Packt Publishing, 70% of software developers said that they have donated time, money, or both to open source projects. However, with large projects like Wikipedia receiving over one million dollars from just three charitable foundations last year, the question remains whether open source really needs individual contributions from developers to survive.

While Wikipedia seems to have strong support from various foundations, many large projects like MySQL, RedHat, and SUSE Linux have created highly successful, self-sustaining business models. These projects generate enough revenue to hire full-time professionals and continue development without relying on individual contributions from the community.

In addition to this, the adoption rate of open source among Governments and corporations has been steadily rising over the past few years. The free and open productivity suite, OpenOffice.org has been adopted by Governments and schools all over the world including those in the United States, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia. This validation encourages companies and individuals to adopt and support open source projects whilst cutting down on costs, a key consideration given the current economic climate.

These trends indicate that the future for large and successful open source projects is bright. The situation for smaller projects, however, is different. phpMyAdmin, a tool for handling the administration of MySQL on the Internet, is a small project consisting of just eight developers. However, since its launch in 2001, the application has been downloaded from SourceForge.net 17 million times.

Despite this apparent success, individual donations play an important role in its development. Its team still maintains a page on the project website requesting monetary donations, which they utilize for the promotion of phpMyAdmin. This highlights the importance of individual contributions and how they still play a vital role in sustaining and opening up open source projects to a larger audience.

Marc Delisle, from phpMyAdmin said: "These donations are important for the promotion of the project, both online and in enabling us to be present at events."

Delisle, who took over the phpMyAdmin project from founder Tobias Ratschiller in 2001, went on to say that: "In the previous years, we used the money to organize a team meeting, which is not easily done as we are located in different countries. We also bought some server hardware and were able to reimburse part of the expenses when any of our developers represented the team at a conference."

The future for the likes of phpMyAdmin looks strong particularly when taking into account Packt's survey results and the latest statistics from Sourceforge.net, where more than two million users support 23,000 open source projects. The evidence suggests that in most cases, open source does need individual contributions to survive. It also appears that the kind of support it needs to sustain itself is available, regardless of project size or its business model. This is welcome news for open source projects, particularly taking into account the current economic downturn.

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