How do open source communities make money?

Gourav Mittal September 5, 2012

Since open source software is available for free to everyone, how do these companies make money? I’ve heard about donations, but what else source of income do these companies actually have that make it possible for them to provide their products that are free of charge?

  1. Donald Spaulding
    September 7, 2012 at 1:30 am

    Money isn't everything

  2. Darren Reynolds
    September 6, 2012 at 11:45 am

    also they rely on the community making donations!

  3. matt
    September 5, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    depends, for example Google open sourced android os, they make money from searches people do on android and clicking on ads. Also apps for android. Depends on a company.

  4. Luka Prebil
    September 5, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    Advertisement like Google Ads for example. Also Oracle for example sells Ubuntu on DVDs too if you wish to support them.

  5. shaurya gupta
    September 5, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    They giveaway their creations for free. Then they sell new modules and expertise versions that have extra advanced features.They have OEM tieups, ads and of course donations.

  6. Oron
    September 5, 2012 at 11:40 am

    There are many models. For online services, advertising is an obvious one, but for desktop applications, the most common form is to sell support. You can download the software and use for free, and of course you can seek help on web forums etc. If you want professional support though (as a business would), you would buy that from the company. Several distros of Linux are distributed on that basis. Some companies also offer bespoke customization or software-writing services based on the software.

  7. James Bruce
    September 5, 2012 at 8:37 am

    Offering premium support is a primary method for many open source movements like Ubuntu; free fr all, but if you want us to help you get stuff sorted, pay up.

    • Justin Pot
      September 5, 2012 at 2:14 pm

      Offering premium support for an open source project is win-win. Average people like you and me can use the software for free, the companies and communities behind the project make enough money to pay developers and corporate clients who would otherwise overlook open source start to take it seriously.

      Ubuntu is a great example of this: because commercial support is available more people use the software, and because big companies like Google are now paying Canonical for Ubuntu support Canonical has more money to put into the Ubuntu project. Which in turn means the product everyday people get to use is better-funded and tested in large environments.

      It's a great model and I hope to see it succeed.

  8. Saikat Basu
    September 5, 2012 at 7:33 am

    Wikipedia for instance, works on donations. Then there are some large financial contributions from donors like Google and various charitable foundations. Now, Wikipedia also has a shop []

    Read about Craigslist in this interesting NY Times article -

  9. MrXlover
    September 5, 2012 at 5:38 am

    Let's take firefox, which receives money from Google for using it as a by default search engine, or Canonical, which sells Ubuntu server and support for it

  10. Tim Brookes
    September 5, 2012 at 5:26 am

    As many have already said, advertising plays a large role though there's not tons of money to be made that way especially if you're only using AdWords-style mass advertising solutions. Better still is selling ad space, i.e. backgrounds or banner ads directly to prospective advertisers as you cut out the middle man and aren't relying on clicks to bring in the money.

    Certain open source efforts can be used in an enterprise manner, or as Rajaa pointed out with OEM deals. Giving away software is one thing, but selling a machine or device already running said software and taking a cut of the manufacturing income is a modest yet viable way of making some money.

    Another way would be through content, so a model like Spotify where many open source libraries are used in the application (which is free, with a limited access to the music library) and then monthly charges are paid for the content is another option. Naturally Spotify isn't open source, but this model could apply to some open source models.

  11. i0ni
    September 5, 2012 at 4:36 am

    Ads on the website and on the installer (toolbars, additional software, custom search engine, custom homepage).

  12. Shakirah Faleh Lai
    September 5, 2012 at 3:42 am

    Advertisements and sponsorship keep them alive.

  13. Rajaa Chowdhury
    September 5, 2012 at 2:06 am

    OEM tie-ups, advertisements, etc.

Ads by Google