Funding freeeware (was: R-beta: help in sept)

Z. Todd Taylor Todd.Taylor at
Thu Jan 29 17:24:40 CET 1998

John Logsdon <j.logsdon at> wrote:

> This is a problem that has been bothering me for some time.  At the
> moment, I use RedHat Linux, Octave, occasionally R and other FSF/GPL
> products.  They are generally better, at least in their fundamental
> design, than the commercial versions but there is no clear mechanism to
> ensure their continued development.  They certainly don't spend anything
> on marketing.

My experience is that much of the freeware I use is better than
the commercial alternatives, but certainly not all of it.  I use
the good stuff and bypass the marginal stuff (whether free or

[ discussion of need for arranging payments
  to freeware developers snipped ]

> I think the solution is simple and would like to see an FSF-organised
> world central approach with easy payment (including by credit card, which
> is the best way for international payments), electronic or postal
> invoicing, and a payer-specified target product(s) so that on-going
> support can be ensured.  The product developers could distribute the funds
> as they see fit - very popular (and good) products might attract a
> considerable income while less popular products might get nothing.  This
> is also a market. 

IMO, what you're describing is just shareware, but with an
enormous bureaucracy added on top.

[ snip ]

> I might send a sum to FSF - perhaps even by standing order every year -
> with say 20% going to R, 20% to octave, 20% to general support etc etc and
> trust FSF to distribute these funds honestly so that you guys out there
> who do so much to generate good software can get something for your pains
> (apart from the nice feeling of being the good guys that is!).  ...

I can already hear the bickering and infighting over who will
get FSF "general support" funding for what projects each year.
FSF has to hire more and more lawyers to stave off "why not me"
lawsuits.  The Europeans complain that the Australians are
getting a disproportionate fraction of funds.  Governments get
involved.  Your standing-order donation is soon an annual tax,
with a percentage shaved off for the U.N., who acts as collector
and overseer.  Rules are established to require various
certifications and qualifications for UNFSF funding...

Freeware is working fine as it is.  Indeed, its success is
mind-boggling.  Let's don't mess it up.

Z. Todd Taylor
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Todd.Taylor at
Why do you say the alarm went off, when really it came on?
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