Note from Joost: This is the write up of the presentation I gave today at WordCamp Europe and an earlier version in Dutch at Drupaljam. I created this presentation together with Marieke, who also wrote this post based on it.
At Yoast we make money using the open source platform WordPress. For some people this might feel contra-intuitive. Can you make money while giving knowledge away? And should all of your software be free if you work with open source?
In this post we would like to explain how making money in an open source community is not weird at all. In fact, our point is that making money in an open source community is even beneficial for the open source community (and of course, for us too J).
Tragedy of the commons
The concept of the “Tragedy of the Commons“ was first introduced by Hardin (1968). Hardin’s article has been influential in economics, but also among ecologists and environmental policy researchers. More importantly for us, it is applicable to common-pool resources. And in our opinion, the open source community can be seen as such a common-pool resource. Let us explain the Tragedy of the Commons:
Imagine a pasture. A green pasture. A pasture that is open to all herders in the neighbourhood. Every herder can put sheep on the pasture. The sheep will grow and give wool, lambs en meat. All benefits are for the herder. Each herder is thus motivated to add more animals. This will lead to overgrazing. The pasture will become less productive. Even when the number of animals exceeds the capacity of the pasture, each herder is still motivated to add more and more animals. Surely, the herder receives all of the proceeds for the animals and only a partial share of the cost of overgrazing. Eventually, this leads to the tragedy, the ruination of the pasture.