FOSS: from Free to Fair
One Software. One Version. Equitable Access to All for a Win-Win.
At Godspeed our mission is to make the latest and greatest tech infra and capability, equitably accessible for everyone. To be able to experiment, innovate and grow together with Godspeed.
And we also believe, that the current tech and FOSS ecosystem can and should evolve further, incorporating greater fairness, transparency, equity, trust, democratisation and collaboration. I.e. an ecosystem which fosters all round growth for all participants complementing each other. It is a matter of our rights and duties as individuals, teams, startups and businesses.
Godspeed believes in growing together and is committed to this mission, starting with our licensing and pricing strategy.
In our last blog, The Dark Sides of FOSS we scrutinized the four pivotal issues faced by the FOSS community and ecosystem. From ethical usage concerns, to limited community contributions, difficulty in sustainability, and the failed promise of the open-core model for the community and the founders, we covered it all. Notably, we highlighted the open core model’s tendency to offer a limited version as more of a marketing gimmick than a practical solution. Join us in this edition as we explore the alternative approach we have taken at Godspeed, for building a more equitable, transparent and just relationship with all our stakeholders.
Godspeed's 3 pronged approach
At Godspeed, we believe in addressing these challenges by adopting a different approach called Source Available. (Well, since the term "open source" and "free software" are almost like a trademark belonging to FSF and OSI 🥲 the rest needed to come out with another term to differentiate their offering with "free and open source".)
Every source available software has its own licensing terms. The source available approach we are taking at Godspeed, provides a solution that promotes fairness, sustainability, and mutual benefit for both developers and users, in areas where the FOSS strategy, though theoretically wonderful and utopian, fails to practically deliver in certain contexts.
The Source Available approach at Godspeed revolves around three key principles: 1. A single version of the software equitably accessible to all B. Ethical licensing and C. Developer rights and participation. Let’s delve deeper into each of these principles and explore how they contribute to a more balanced and harmonious software landscape.
One Version Available To All
In the traditional open core model adopted by most "FOSS" companies, they start with a community (free, open) version of the software to attract the audience & build the name of the product. It varies from being limited to inhibited to being an outright mockery of the FOSS ethos, when compared to the "real offering" - the enterprise version - the rabbit eventually emerging from the hat. In India they an elephant has different teeth to show and different to eat. So in the open core model the teeth to show is the FOSS version and the teeth to eat is the enterprise one. The open core companies hope to earn bread and butter from the paid version. We are yet to see them succeed at large. Further, open core companies face the danger of parasitical abuse - someone leeching the company's FOSS offering and becoming its competition using its own tools! (Every wonder why companies like Elastic changed from FOSS to Source Available licensing model?)
This is inherently a conflicted approach with both versions competing with each other, and community and founders having a tug of war between the virtues of loyalty versus sustainability during their entire journey. No wonder so many famous FOSS based software companies have changed to Source Available licensing.
We at Godspeed believe loyalty and sustainability can go hand in hand. Hence we are taking a unified, conflict free approach.
We provide one shared Source version of our software, under the Godspeed License 1.0 which offers the right to use software free of cost for NFPs & individuals, and the right to study for all. As for commercial startups who do not make profits yet and have not raised serious investment, they can give back in two ways. First: They can contribute to the development & improvement of the software, or simply spread the word. And secondly: once they cross the barrier of financial abundance, they can give back financially to the ecosystem. The startups should be allowed to get access to the best software tools and infra, and focus on their growth first without worrying about costs.
This way everyone has equitable access to the best of Godspeed's tools. Everyone can use these tools in full capacity and give back as per their ability, to help the shared pool of software get better and continue to be accessible to the entire ecosystem on the same terms. The community can trust that they are investing (and not spending) in an ecosystem which will upkeep everyone's trust and best interests in the long run.
This ensures that everyone, irrespective of their financial backing, has access to the best version of the software from the start. It fosters a cycle of democratisation, equity, participation and mutual growth.
Ethical Licensing: Aligning Purpose and Usage
Ethical licensing is an essential aspect of the Source Available approach at Godspeed. We understand that software can be used for both positive and negative purposes, and we want to ensure that our software is aligned with ethical considerations. By imposing certain restrictions on usage, we aim to prevent the misuse of technology for harmful or malicious intents.
At Godspeed, our ethical licensing prohibits the use of our software for intentionally and consciously causing harm to humans, animals or natural environment in any form. By setting these boundaries, we are actively working towards a better world, where technology is leveraged responsibly and ethically. This ensures that our software is aligned with our values and contributes positively to society.
Developer Rights & Participation
Github data states that out of 10000 developers, only 6 contribute to open source projects.
We do not know how many FOSS maintainers are getting a fair return for their efforts versus the rewards of those who use their work
Godspeed believes in fostering a collaborative ecosystem based on alround need fulfilment. Today, we are ourselves a fledgling bootstrapped startup running on a tight rope and with sacrifices by the maintainers. It is our firm resolve and intention that tomorrow when we start to make significant profits, we will start sharing the lion's share of the abundance with A. Our contributors B. The FOSS projects that we use or appreciate and C. The society at large. (FYI, we actively run a holistic education and upskilling program at small scale, in rural neighborhood around our coworking space in Dahramshala, HP, India. Our video editor Sourav is one of the shining outcomes of this program. Our founder Ayush has a vision for the society - under the project name Lifemaker)
Transparency, fairness and collective well-being are core values at Godspeed. We want to actively share our earnings with the creators of the software we use throughout our technology stack. This includes not only the developers who directly contribute to our repositories but also the creators of open-source software and plugins that are instrumental in our ecosystem. We believe in equitable distribution based on the principles of justice and fairness, ensuring that all participants are equitably compensated.
Additionally, Godspeed extends support to early-stage startups by providing free credits, alleviating their financial burdens and allowing them to focus on growth. By partnering with these startups, we aim to foster their development and help them succeed. In turn, as these startups progress and become established companies, they contribute back to the ecosystem, creating a cycle of support and growth.
The Source Available approach at Godspeed offers a solution to the challenges posed by the traditional open core model. Through a shared Source version, ethical licensing, and a collaborative ecosystem, we aim to create a software landscape that is fair, sustainable, and beneficial to both developers and users. By promoting transparency, fairness, and responsible technology usage, we can work together to make the world a better place.
Watch the podcast
This video by Ayush gives a more comprehensive understanding.