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I'm not sure if there's an established protocol for this (even if it's not an official one), but thought those most experienced with open source might want to share with us.

I'm aware that random patches submitted to open source projects are never paid. They may be indirectly funded by a client but they're never paid for by the open source project itself.

But how about core developers? I heard for example that drupal has some 800 core developers behind it. Core developers means that they work on drupal core itself and together they push the main releases, so they're very important to the project. Of course drupal is just an example, but in general, is there any established protocol in the open source world that defines whether the company behind the project is expected to pay them and do these core developers expect such payment?

Any facts or first hand experiences?

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2 Answers 2

As a particular example, a few of the core Squeak developers work for Teleplace. They hack on Squeak as part of their day job, so Teleplace gets the stuff they need, and then release the changes to the base Squeak image and virtual machine back to the larger Squeak community.

There are quite a few other companies that pay their employees, in part at least, to hack on Squeak.

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I covered this topic in detail in a blog post about donations to open-source projects.

The gist of it is this - once an open-source project reaches a certain size, one of several things can happen to allow it to continue existing (otherwise support and scope issues bring it down). There are 3 main ways to support an OS project at that stage:

  1. A big company (Google, Microsoft, etc) "sponsors" the project and has paid developers from its staff working on it full-time. Some projects come out directly from those companies and naturally have this option baked in.
  2. The project can transform into a real business, in the MySQL / Redhat mold. This means commercial licenses, paid support and customization / integration services. Otherwise some kind of bizdev opportunity that brings in a stream income (such as what Mozilla has with google by placing their search engine as the default one in Firefox).
  3. A community of maintainers forms around the project with the original maintainer ceding control to allow others to contribute.

1 is unlikely and not something you can plan for while 2 is very difficult for most developers and most projects fail at that point. This a problem very dear to my heart, which is why I started Binpress (the company whose blog I linked to at the beginning), to provide a platform for developers to build those sustainable businesses on top of their open-source projects. From our experience this is a very viable model, and we've seen a lot of success recently in that space.

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