Montag, 22. April 2013

Crowdfunding: Free Software Doesn't Mean Gratis

By Scott Merrill
Yorba, the company behind the Linux photo management application Shotwell, are dipping their toes into the crowdfunding pool to finance their next project. They’ve started an Indigogo project to collect funding to develop Geary, a “lightweight email program designed around conversations.”
Although some folks are perfectly content with web-based email, there are many who prefer a native desktop client. In this regard, Linux desktops have been sub-par. Mozilla’s Thunderbird seems adequate, but the folks at Yorba seem to think they can do a lot better. To make their dream a reality, they’re asking the global community of Linux users to collectively put up $100,000 USD. I asked Jim Nelson, Yorba’s executive director, how that money would spent.

We plan on feeding and clothing three engineers with the money raised,” Nelson told me by email. “The money we raise will be used almost entirely for salary and our tax obligations.

I was curious if Yorba had any concerns about some kind of “hostile takeover”, as might occur if all the financial backers of Geary started to try to influence development. Sure, it’s open source software and anyone can fork the code; but the relationship between “donor” and “sponsor” is nuanced. If a sponsor doesn’t like the work-in-progress, they ostensibly have a chance to make their feelings known before the work is complete.
Nelson isn’t too worried. “Any one patron, no matter how well-financed they are, are up against potentially hundreds of patrons whose sum contribution represents a large stake to contend with.” More importantly, Nelson observes that “crowdfunding is not a contract model — a single large donation is still a donation, and if the well-funded donor asked for something contrary to our long-term goals, we still have the freedom to say ‘no’ and stick with the goals we’ve laid out in our campaign.”

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