Crowdfunding and Open Source

At first glance, open source and crowdfunding seem an inevitable match. After all, what could be more natural than software that nobody owns being funded by popularity? In theory, crowdfunding should allow developers to concentrate on what interests them, freeing them from the need to make a living or answer to an employer.

And, sometimes, the match works out. Linux Voice, a proposed new magazine, not only reached its goal of 90,000 pounds with several days to go, but exceeded it by over 33%. Similarly, A Raspberry Pi Build Cluster for Ubuntu reached its goal of 2,500 pounds several days before the end of its campaign, while Freedom Box, “a free software system built to keep your communications free” reached 134% of its requested $60,000.

However, these success stories are like those for self-publishing: they’re the exception, not the rule. For every success story, there are at least a dozen failures, such as Yorba’s effort to fund development of its Geary mail reader, or Canonical’s efforts to raise $32 million for Ubuntu Edge, a proposed boutique phone. If anything, most crowdfunding efforts are even less successful than these examples.