An Ubuntu subscription service

Posted on July 28, 2012


The idea: A way for OSS devs to get paid.

First the problem. OSS is great, but it’s always welcome if people can get a bit of money for their work. Some people try to live off it, others just pay for hosting.

But the software is provided for free. You don’t want to pay for something if you’re not sure you’ll like it – that’s why people provide demos. But of course, with free software there is no need to buy a “full” version.

Donate buttons are also popular, but how many people really take the trouble of donating to a project they like, even if they wanted to. And with the Ubuntu software centre, many people will never see the project’s web page, while adding donate nags within the app is terrible design.

So how about a system similar to flattr. A user can choose to pay a monthly subscription fee. The amount they pay is divvied up between the apps they use every month. Zeitgeist can be used to figure out how much each app is used and assign the amounts accordingly. Once a month, the user is prompted to double check the cash distribution, or they can opt to trust the algorithm to share out the money fairly.

This would obviously be entirely optional and opt-in for both the user and OSS project. It would just be a more systematic way for people to give to the projects they use. It would hopefully also help a bit of darwinian selection in the app selection.

Quality remains a serious issue in OSS. There are too many orphan projects, packages in the repos which haven’t seen updates in years and are no longer really fit for purpose. The Ubuntu software centre goes some way to separating the wheat from the chaff. I think this would help – the projects that worked best and attracted the most satisfied users would get more financial rewards and so would be encouraged to keep going.

Incidentally, I use Ubuntu as an example because it is easily the most popular desktop distro and has made great strides in making apps accessible through the software center. Technically this idea could be implemented as a third party app for any distro, but it would have a much greater impact if it was a baked-in option in Ubuntu.

Anyway this is just an idea – leave feedback in the comments below!

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