Published 1 week ago • 6 minute read

Can Blockchain Technology Level the Playing Field in the Compensation of Open Source Developers?

In a world where collaboration is the new norm, open-source software is gradually becoming the standard of technological innovations. Both individual developers and big tech firms are moving away from the siloed model where ideas were limited to a particular circle. With open-source code, it has become much easier for tech innovators to share intellectual property, ultimately enhancing the level of today’s software systems. 

But how exactly is open source code different from the traditional proprietary software (closed source software)? Up until two decades ago, companies in the software development field operated in a very secretive manner; they designed software products that could only be altered by them. Open source code is the exact opposite, this new paradigm of software development introduced free products that can be modified by any developer. 

According to a 2021 analysis by Statista, there were over 22 million open source projects on Javascript alone. Some of these ideas play a bigger role in supporting innovations by Fortune 500 companies such as Amazon’s Cloud Development Kit. That said, there is much more to benefit from open source code than most techies would imagine. The next section of this article will take a deep dive into the value proposition of open source software development. 

  1. Diversity and Inclusion of Ideas 

By virtue of combining ideas, open source software offers room for diversity and inclusion of the best advancements in tech. Developers are not limited to in-house knowledge as was the case in the early years of software development. Open source software makes it possible for individuals and firms to share diverse ideas in form of code, and implement them to build better solutions or products. 

More importantly, the ability to freely experiment on existing softwares bolsters creativity. A developer can come up with a more innovative product based on an underlying code that would have otherwise been limited in the closed source software era. Additionally, the aspect of collaboration means that there is diversity in the creation and development of ideas. 

  1. Software Quality 

In most cases, open source codes end up being of high quality. This is because of the joint effort that goes into designing this type of infrastructure. Developers are more careful when writing code for a larger community, given that it will come under the scrutiny of many eyes. One cannot afford to risk their reputation or appear as a code monkey. 

Furthermore, open source software is normally data secure compared to proprietary software, where flaws can hardly be identified before product release. Unlike its traditional counterpart, open source codes are heavily scrutinized by developers who seek to modify or build other innovations on the software. 

  1. Value Addition to Native Projects 

It is also noteworthy that using open source codes has made it seamless for close-knit teams to build value added projects. Today, a developer does not have to design a project from ground up, one can simply source for an advanced code that suits their needs. This availability of better softwares is not only enhancing the level of tech innovations but reducing the time used by native teams to roll out a new project or feature. Consequently, modern-day companies are able to serve their customers more efficiently based on the latest advancements.  

Developers Receive the Short End of the Stick 

As good as it may sound, it is not a bed of roses for open source software developers. They do most of the heavy lifting but end up benefiting the least from their codes. For example, the cURL library has been under the maintenance of a one developer, Daniel Steinberg, who has provided his free services for the past three decades. Is this really fair given the role of cURL in data access by multiple softwares across the globe? 

Many developers in this niche rely on programs such as Buy Me A Coffee and GitHub Sponsors to make ends meet while big corporations eat with a big spoon. This inequality has in the past forced popular developers like Marak Squires (npm packages, “faker” and “color”) to alter his code; he commented on GitHub, noting that “I am no longer going to support Fortune 500s (and other smaller-sized companies) with my free work.”

Adding salt to injury, open source developers sometimes have to work round the clock without compensation, like in the Log4shell breach. This incident attracted the attention of prominent stakeholders, including the White House, which eventually acknowledged the importance of open source softwares, 

“open source software brings unique value, and has unique security challenges, because of its breadth of use and the number of volunteers responsible for its ongoing security maintenance.”

How Blockchain Solves the Remuneration Challenge  

While it is obvious that open source developers are deprived their fair share of compensation, emerging technologies like blockchain are changing the narrative. Most people think of crypto assets when blockchain is mentioned, but there is more to it. At the core, blockchain tech introduces decentralized economies that are governed by communities instead of a third party such as the long-standing tech giants. 

So, how does this enable the compensation of open source developers? In the blockchain economy, developers can choose to share their smart contract codes on open source repositories like t3rn, alongside an option of being compensated whenever anyone uses their code. The remuneration is made through t3rn’s native token TRN, which also facilitates on-chain fees and network incentives for the contributors.

Though a nascent model, decentralized ecosystems are gradually coming up as level grounds for shared work. Gone are the days when big companies take home the lion’s share from a developer’s work while paying them peanuts. With blockchain in the picture, it will be possible for open source developers to monetize their work effectively. Above all, it is a gateway to a whole new world of permissionless products in the DeFi and NFT markets. 

Conclusion 

As highlighted in previous sections of this article, open source software plays a fundamental role in the development of high grade technologies. It is only prudent that developers are rightfully compensated for their efforts. Luckily, the advent of decentralized economies will likely set the stage for a more inclusive remuneration model. This will ensure that the wealth generated from mainstream innovations is equally and fairly distributed, ultimately building the morale of open source developers. 

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