One of the most common phrases in the world of creatives is ‘we’ll pay you in exposure.’
For anyone trying to make a living online in a technical or creative field, exposure alone certainly doesn’t pay the bills. However, there are those out there who take time out of their day to pursue creative work based on passion rather than for a paycheck — even if that means working for big corporations that can payout.
This is especially a problem in technology — and coding, specifically.
The Value of Open Source
cURL is an open-source project used to transmit data between one or more systems. It’s in every single iPhone in existence. It’s in cars and televisions and a majority of devices used by the everyday population. However, Stenberg, who mostly maintains cURL by himself alongside some dedicated fans, did all of this for free.
He now works at a company called wolfSSL, and they pay him for working on cURL, as it’s required for the company to continue existing. Beforehand, Stenberg spent thousands of hours working on it and went on for years without even knowing anyone was utilizing the code. This, of course, is because it’s an open-source project. While he should be credited, there’s nothing that requires companies to contact Stenberg for their use of his ideas.
One could make the argument that everything here is fine. Stenberg willingly does this work, he has contributors helping him out, and the world is made better via his open-source code. In fact, many who work on open-source projects outright refuse to accept payment.
However, some companies come to the software developer when something goes wrong with a project, demanding his help. This is where Stenberg draws the line and, from now on, will start expecting big companies to pay him for help — and he’s not the only one.
Thankless Work for Software Developers
Knowledge is money. In most professions, the thought of working for free is nothing short of outrageous. Professors, engineers, service workers — none of these workers would be caught dead working for free. The fact that software developers happily do so is a miracle.
There are loads of free applications on Apple’s App Store just because the company opened up their programming language, Swift, to the public in 2015. Linux is an entire operating system built on the idea of free, open-source work. Thanks to software developers, we have free alternatives to programs like the Adobe Suite.
Creators of all kinds can work on their dream projects without paying a cent. They’re rewarded by meeting other, similar-minded developers and provided a sense of purpose — something that even the highest paying jobs can fail to deliver — but, sometimes, the hard work and effort of these developers are left unnoticed.
This brings up the issue of users treating developers poorly. What if, like the scenario with Stenberg, more and more software devs start charging for their services instead of providing open-source projects to the world? What if the code from other projects is as vital as the lines from cURL and nobody wants to fix it without a hefty paycheck? This could mark a significant change in the world of software development — one where creators aren’t as willing to give out their work.
That’s not even to mention how open-source code lends itself to new software developers entering the field. The availability of such information for newer devs to bounce off of and create their own projects is a genuine blessing. With the likes of YouTube and forums, newer devs can become quite competent very quickly. Corporations stepping on open-source developers will only lead to more of them closing themselves off.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!
Images courtesy of Twitter/@ow, Shutterstock.