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From on 2012-10-27.
About Fairware
Free as in speech, Fair as in trade
"Fairware" is a term I coined recently to designate open source
development of software targeting a wide audience (typically
published in the form of "Shareware" in the proprietary world) with
expectation of fair compensation from users. It's a mix of two
driving principles:
1. Intellectual property doesn't make sense (at least in the software
world). The protection of intellectual property causes much grief
all over the world, all the time. Software patents threatens
developers at every corner, like land mines. Proprietary licensing
makes developers create the same software over and over again in
a silly competition game, making the end user suffer in the end
(for not having access to the collaborative effort instead of the
competitive one). Some users fall in the hands of some unethical
software companies that will squeeze every penny they can from
them, taking advantage from the fact that they're captive users.
2. Developers have to eat. It's hard for open source developers
doing generic software targeting a wide audience to get compensated
for their work. Sure, they may receive some donations from users,
but certainly not enough to allow them to work full time on their
applications. Because of this, they only work on their open source
software in their spare time, and this generally reduces the quality
of it. Chances are, if they could, they'd quit their day job and
work on their software full time, creating a fair alternative to
their proprietary competitors, slowly making intellectual property
irrelevant, but money unfortunately flows towards these proprietary
software developers, starving the overall open source effort.
Fairware is open source software with the assumption that some
users are fair. If we can assume that (and I sure hope we can), we
can build a system helping them to "express their fairness" (to
contribute). With the typical "Donate" button, figuring out what
is the fair thing to do is hard, even for a fair user (read this
article for more details). Who worked on the project? How many
hours? How much did they receive yet? These are all questions that
need to be answered before determining a fair amount of money to
give to a project. Chances are, even when users are fair, laziness
takes over and these users end up not donating, for lack of
information to make a correct judgement.
How does Fairware work? All hours developers invest in projects
are public, as well as their hourly rate expectations. All
contributions from fair users are also instantly made public
(anonymously). When contributions are made, they are allocated to
unpaid development hours (see the F.A.Q. for details). Everyone
can thus easily know how many hours have yet to be compensated.
Also, users are made aware that the software is Fairware with a
dialog that pops up for users who haven't contributed yet, reminding
them of expectations from developers. With enough fair users, such
a system allows open source developers working on software for a
wide audience to do so full time. I don't know about you, but I
find that awesome.
An opt-in system. After a couple of testing and tweaking of the
fairware system, I realized that many users didn't want to hear
about intellectual property and just wanted to know how much it
costs. By trying to force them to learn about fairware, there's a
risk of alienating them and thus turning away a user who would
otherwise pay for the software. This is why I recently made the
fairware system optional. By default, HS apps behave like shareware
apps: You can try it for free, but unless you pay for it, there
are demo limitations. This way, we don't confuse newcomers ("An
open source app for which I have to pay?! What is this new devilry?").
Now that you've read about fairware, if you want to enable the
fairware mode, all you have to do is to open the registration key
dialog, type "fairware" in any of the two fields and click submit.
Developers wanted! Are you a developer? Do you like this idea?
Whether you'd like to get involved with HS projects, or make your
own Fairware project, please let me know!
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