Colin's Journal

Colin's Journal: A place for thoughts about politics, software, and daily life.

November 25th, 2002

Ransom model for software development

It appears that the whole of idea of ransomware is starting to be formalised. The concept is that developers build software, do binary only releases and, once it has brought in a certain amount of money, they will release the source code as open source.

It has most famously been used for blender, a 3D rendering program, for which EUR100,000 was raised to free the source code. There is at least one other I know of in the form of pepper, a promising text editor that is no longer being developed.

I like the idea because it allows software developers to build quality software that is released into the community, and get paid. It also means that there is a direct way for consumers of software to purchase open source software in a way that directly benefits the authors, and helps the community as well. I’m not sure how well the idea scales however. If this model continues then we will should expect to see a few consequences fall out from it:

  1. There will be some developers that work hard at a project, but at the end the ransom is not met. It’s not clear how to deal with this – the ransom website mentioned above talks about a “time bomb” to address this, but I doubt this will work (why not just wait for it to be released anyway rather than paying for it?)
  2. There will inevitably be some fraud and mis-understandings. It’s going to take a while for the model to shake out and have solid contracts behined it.
  3. PayPal is going to be making even more money than they do now!

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