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Free software isn’t free. Free software geeks love to correct people by saying that the “free” in “free software” refers to freedom ( libre ), not cost ( gratis ). We even join in this word play at Purism by naming our laptops Librem– a combination of the words libre (freedom) and librum (book). Whether free software is written as a labor of love in someone’s free time or written as part of someone’s full-time job, even if the developer doesn’t charge for the software the cost to make it is still there. In this post I’ll talk about why Purism funds free software through hardware, and why we didn’t take some of the other popular approaches.
Working for Tips
It took me a couple of years to remodel my bathroom, because I only worked on it on weekends. When you already have a full-time job, you don’t necessarily want to work every weekend too, so there were plenty of weekends where I did other things. Yet I probably could have completed that multi-year project in a couple of weeks if I could have worked on it full time.
A lot of great software has been written in a developer’s free time, and arguably most free software is written this way. Yet if we want free software to progress as quickly as possible (and we do), we must enable more people to pursue their labor of love full-time instead of just on the weekends. That means paying people full-time salaries for their work . Giving tips, patronages, or a percentage of sales is all well-meaning and I’m sure developers appreciate it, but few developers get enough from that route to quit their day jobs.
So how do you fund free software in a sustainable way?
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