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Open Source: Why do people work for free?

On one of these warm summer evenings on a garden fest, I told in a group of friends that I work for a WordPress agency. A befriended entrepreneur answered, “Ah, WordPress! That’s great, everything’s free, I’ve done our whole website with it!”. It only took a short time until he pushed afterwards: “Why do they do everything for free, don’t they want to earn any money?

We talked about Open Source, the community behind WordPress and the free web. And that when everyone works together on something, a strong ecosystem is being created from which everyone can benefit – and ultimately everyone can earn money from.

But the question still stuck in my head. And I had to think about this post about a developer who uploaded over 14,000 commits to a GitHub repository in 20 years.

Why are people motivated to invest their time and professional skills in open source projects for which they are not paid?

And why are there companies that use these technologies and can make a lot of money with them without giving anything back?

The Internet does not work without Open Source

In fact, much of the Internet is based on open source technologies. Without Open Source, our Internet would be unimaginable. And that Wikipedia is not a serious source was probably on of the biggest scams of our educational system.

That #Wikipedia isn’t a serious source is the biggest nonsense our #educationalsystem told us.

For this reason, Google currently operates and supports over 2,000 such open source projects. Because open source creates innovations that would otherwise not be possible and we all benefit from them.

Companies can simply use these software for themselves or change it to their needs. Often it’s small things, a few lines of code, that solve big problems.

This is a great opportunity for everyone. For example, for small and medium-sized companies or young technology companies and start-ups that cannot afford to develop everything themselves.

In addition, every developer in the world depends on learning and applying open source code in his or her career.

And open source projects, such as WordPress, make freedom of expression accessible to everyone in the world. Free of charge and without registration or regulation.

Companies make use of Open Source

Unfortunately, very few companies behave responsibly with open source and give something back. Be it through active cooperation, support or a fair share of the earned money.

Owen Williams describes in his article The Internet Relies on People Working for Free how some of the world’s largest companies shamelessly make use of free technologies and how they generate profits from thousands of hours of work by a single developer.

The article tells the unbelievable story of the developer Daniel Steinberg, who almost single-handedly and unpaidly maintains a technology on which millions of smartphones depend. And he asks the question, why none of the companies that benefit from his invention wants to support him in the maintenance.

Giving something back is important

I am very proud that we at Inpsyde are aware of our responsibility to give something back to the WordPress community. We share our knowledge in the community, work on the further development of the Content Management System and publish a part of our plugins for free use. One of them is the backup plugin BackWPup, which has already been downloaded over 9 million times and is available free of charge to users all over the world.

That’s how you give something back.

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