August 22, 2003
A New Way To Finance Open-Source Software

Now that the Mozilla Project has been cut loose from its corporate parent, AOL-Time Warner, and turned over to a non-profit foundation, they’ve been looking for new ways to finance ongoing development of their world-beating browser. One new approach is different from any I’ve seen before: Mozilla Coffee, a partnership with RJ Tarpley’s Coffee Company to offer Mozilla-branded coffee, with half of the profit from each purchase going to Tarpley’s and the other half going to the Mozilla Foundation. (Customers who’d prefer another of Tarpley’s brands, but who still want to support Mozilla development, can simply note that on their order form and Tarpley will split the profit with the Foundation in the same way they do with the branded offerings.)

Apparently the impetus for the deal came from the enthusiasm the company’s owner has for the browser — R. J. Tarpley describes himself as a “Mozilla Geek” in the story on MozillaZine. I think in the future we’ll be seeing more of this type of deal, as companies that depend on open-source software realize that it’s often cheaper to contribute to ongoing development of open-source software than it is to pay license fees for commercial alternatives. Indeed, I’m surprised that we haven’t seen a consortium of non-software Fortune 500 companies realize this — they could, for example, lavishly bankroll the project for a fraction of what they pay in Microsoft Office licenses, and have a direct voice in what direction the software goes to boot. Developers whose paychecks come directly from such a consortium are likely to take feature requests a lot more seriously than Microsoft currently does. It’s one of those ideas that just makes so much sense I’m surprised nobody’s already doing it. Tarpley’s deal, however, may be the first step in just that direction. [Seen on MozillaZine]

Posted by Jason Lefkowitz at August 22, 2003
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Ant's Eye View is edited by Jason Lefkowitz, a consultant and Web developer in Alexandria, Virginia. Got a question, comment, or concern? Let me hear it!

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