by Rocco Maglio, Software Engineer and Cybersecurity Professional
Amazon Web Services (AWS) and other infrastructure as a service companies have broken the standard open source revenue model. The former model was that you wrote software to solve a problem you were having. This was usually a problem being experienced by many people. You could earn a decent living supporting the software you created since you were the creator of the software. People would come to you with questions or pay you to create additional functionality.
Let’s say you created software to store lots of information in computer memory and retrieve it quickly. This is something that many other people would like to do too. Rather than write their own software they will use the software and pay you for support when they have questions or issues.
If Amazon Web Services (AWS) or other infrastructure as a service companies decide to use your software, suddenly users of your software have a decision: do they pay Amazon to support the software or do they pay you for support. In general, most companies will choose Amazon since they are a well-known commodity and that is the decision with the least risk.
This means that Amazon is earning the money that used to go to the creators of the software. This reduces the incentive of a developer to create the software and to continue to develop the software.
A new license Common Clause has been created that does not allow selling the software. The problem is that this license is not open source at all. The idea of open source was that software was created and shared since many others faced the same issue. The person(s) who ran into the issue would freely release what they wrote. The creators would be compensated through payments for support and enhancements to the software. The issue with the Common Clause is it breaks the current open source model by placing restrictions on the software being sold, the creator is not really open sourcing the software. Using Common Clause software in projects could lead to legal entanglements.
Amazon and other infrastructure companies are changing the way that open source compensation works. Creators of software will have to figure out a new way to receive compensation for software. It is possible that Amazon and other infrastructure companies will pay the creators of the software to fix bugs and improve their software. A new incentive structure will need to be developed to encourage creators to improve, polish, and release their code for the benefit of all.