However, something’s changing is the developers’ community. Open source development used to be made only for geeks or volontary developpers. That’s over : you can now make money coding for open source software.
Several organizations have what they call “bounties” : they pick one of their programs, they describe a precise problem, and set a bounty for it (usually proportionnal to the effort needed). You solve it, you win. And these bounties often rise up to several hundred dollars.
Moreover, Google has had the great idea of setting up a contest, called the “Summer of Code”, for students to get involved into open source during this summer 2005 (don’t apply now, though, the deadline has just passed, hope they do it again next year). Students apply by describing what would be their project and by selecting one of the mentor organisations from Google’s list. Google then picks 400 of them (among nearly 9000 proposals !) to work in team with the mentor and to make the project become real software. So, what’s so special about this ? Each of these 200 students will receive a 4500 $ check for his contribution (plus 500 $ for the corresponding mentor organization : if you doubted how much Google was ready to give for open source, you do the math – and hopefully it’s just the beginning) ! Now that’s quite new : open source development and dollars.
Some might say that money interfering with the open source’s state of mind might not be such a good thing. I think it’s just great. New programmers will probably come to open source, at first to get paid a little bit, but after a few months they might as well get involved into projects without a bounty. And programmers already involved into open source will probably spend even more time on it if they can sometimes get a compensation.
I think this is some kind of sign that open source has reached its maturity.
And there’s a new job on the list : open source bounty hunter ! If you’d like to give it a shot, just type “bounties” in Google, change your nickname to “Boba Fett” and start coding !