Why the entire open source movement is under threat right now

(Image credit: Shutterstock / fatmawati achmad zaenuri)

To date, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected over 170 technology events worldwide. Some of them have been postponed and others have moved online, but the majority have been cancelled outright. 

This has had a significant impact on the open source community, placing high-profile organizations and projects under mounting financial pressure.

The Open Source Initiative (OSI), the organisation responsible for assessing open source licenses and preventing, “the abuse of the ideals and ethos inherent to the open source movement”, has indicated it needs to raise $600,000 to meet its funding goals for 2020.

The Drupal Association, which oversees the development of the popular Drupal CMS, has already had to lay off staff and as a direct result of event cancellations - and it too needs to raise $500,000.

At a surface level, the role of a technology event in helping foster free and open source software (FOSS) communities isn’t immediately apparent. But the reality is that running and attending events has helped raise money for FOSS projects and their governing bodies for decades, sustaining their existence.

Further, these events offer various opportunities for the FOSS projects to educate new users and onboard fresh contributors, coordinate their core development activities, perform project housekeeping and brainstorm ideas for future development.

Open source community

Event cancellations can also negatively impact the already limited funds of participating open source projects and individual contributors. 

In a bid to minimise the monetary impact of a cancelled event on the FOSS ecosystem, a group of stalwarts from the community, along with their corporate backers, have banded together to form the FOSS Responders working group.

In addition to creating a corpus fund, the group is identifying open source events and communities that are most in need of support and also wants to support individuals who are unable to absorb conference-related cancellation fees.

The fund, much like the community it is designed to sustain, is hosted on open crowdfunding platform Open Collective. Not only is the platform's code released under the MIT License, but it also publishes financial information relating to campaigns.

The Sloan Foundation has contributed $50,000 to the FOSS Responders fund, while Google, Indeed.com, and Sentry.io have pitched in $10,000 each, bringing the total close to $100,000.

FOSS Responders is also holding a virtual funding event on Friday May 22, and Indeed.com has promised to match all donations upto $5,000.

Besides monetary assistance, FOSS Responders is also working to create a resource center to equip projects with technical resources to help them engage with their community and even organise events virtually.

If you are looking for financial help, you can apply to the fund for an emergency grant either as an individual or as a project. And if you want to support the open sources community, here’s a collection of crowdfunding campaigns set up by FOSS foundations to help mitigate the monetary setbacks it has suffered.

Mayank Sharma

With almost two decades of writing and reporting on Linux, Mayank Sharma would like everyone to think he’s TechRadar Pro’s expert on the topic. Of course, he’s just as interested in other computing topics, particularly cybersecurity, cloud, containers, and coding.