OpenBSD founder makes funding plea

OpenBSD founder makes funding plea

Summary: OpenBSD developers are calling on commercial users for financial help as the organisation claims that a 'culture of entitlement is starting to damage the open source community'


OpenBSD developers have admitted that the organisation is running at a loss and want to increase annual income to continue funding the development of the project's open source operating system.

"OpenBSD for the past two years has turned a loss of approximately $20,000 [£12,000]," Marco Peereboom, an OpenBSD developer wrote in the OpenBSD Journal on Tuesday. "This is starting to seriously impede the development of OpenBSD and OpenSSH."

OpenBSD is a Unix-like operating system that is popular among system administrators running firewalls.

Theo de Raadt, the founder and lead developer of OpenBSD, confirmed the loss figures to ZDNet UK and said the project currently has an income of around $100,000 (£60,000), half of which comes from donations, with the other half coming from product sales.

The project's biggest expense are its hackathons — events where developers meet to write code — which it tries to run a few times a year and cost between $10,000 and $30,000.

Although OpenBSD has a number of commercial users, including many ISPs, de Raadt claimed that all of its donations come from individuals rather than companies many of who claim the have no budget to pay for the operating system. "The culture of entitlement is starting to damage the open source community," he said.

Many companies that work with open source projects are purely motivated by self-interest rather a fundamental belief in the value of community-developed software, said de Raadt. "Are IBM only helping Linux to work better on IBM machines so they can sell more hardware? They're not doing it to help regular users," he said. 

OpenSSH, a secure network connectivity tool project that is developed by the OpenBSD project, has received no funding from vendors, despite the fact that the tool is used by many operating systems to encrypt Internet traffic.

"OpenSSH is included in every Unix-derived operating system, yet the total amount of assistance we've ever got from vendors is zero," said DeRaadt. "It's astounding. I don't know what to do about it."

One problem that Peereboom highlighted in his article for the OpenBSD Journal is that people tend to download the operating system from the Web site rather than buying CDs, which are one of the project's main sources of revenues.

"What is happening is that the CD purchase [to] FTP ratio is out of control. People pretty much stopped purchasing CDs in quantities they used to and use the FTP mirrors instead. This lack of sales is what is causing the project to turn a small loss for the second year in a row," said Peereboom.

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  • Opensource <> free distribution. Close the ftp mirror and develop paying distribution channels.

    Opensource projects have used the "free as in free beer" weapon to get exposure. At some point, the door has got to be closed.
  • "Opensource <> free distribution. Close the ftp mirror and develop paying distribution channels."

    You do realize that *anyone* is free to legally distrubute these products by any method, based on the currently available source?
    They could possibly restrict future versions by changing the distrubution license but existing releases are already free beyond recall. And if they did change the license for future versions, other parties could just carry on developing and enhancing a new 'forked' version with a new name and any trademarks removed (e.g. Red hat's enterprise Linux edition is not available for free download as such, but CentOs and Whitebox provide free versions which are identical except for trademark and name).
    I think their problem is that they are not sucessfully selling coporate support packages. They can't rely on pleading and exhorting, or charging for the product itself for the reasons above.
    Utimately, if they can't make a go of it they are free to abandon these prodcuts and other individuals or companies are free to continue developing them.
  • OpenBSD head de Raadt refuses to restrict code, so, fat chance of a future version being restricted.
  • One thing that I believe is missing from this article is a list of all companies that adopt the code from BSD, change it a little so other people can not interact with it, and then lock it up, so the can keep their monopolies or ability to continue to keep other people from competing.

    These companies also do no give any money to BSD, because they do not care if BSD stays or goes.