back to article Developer reconsiders npm command-line ad caper after outcry

Software developer Feross Aboukhadijeh has decided to discontinue a funding experiment that brought text ads to the command line – and criticism from detractors. Introduced on August 19, Aboukhadijeh's JavaScript package called funding represented an attempt to provide open source project maintainers with a way to generate …

  1. Blackjack Silver badge

    Hey remember the 2000s?

    Whatever happened to paying money for a "pro" version?

  2. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Have they thought of making it voluntary?

    Have they thought of making it voluntary? DON'T make "funding" a dependency, but mention that it exists, and use it if it is installed. I don't use npm, but (I know debian would be HIGHLY unlikely to do this...) *if* aptitude got an option to promote packages and throw some money to advertisers, I'd go for it.

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: Have they thought of making it voluntary?

      Put it in as an optional dependency?

      Not a bad idea.

  3. Warm Braw Silver badge

    Pay fairly for digital goods and labor

    Even when the availability of literature, art and music was constrained by the technology of the time, the vast majority of creators were never rewarded in proportion to their effort.

    With digital goods, the potential supply is near enough infinite compared to the size of the potential demand. Anyone can make it and some of it will be good enough on the basis that you approach having sufficient monkeys and keyboards to solve the Shakespeare problem, possibly with the help of a bit of AI.

    Persuading people to pay for value that arises deliberately when there is value that arises accidentally is going to be pretty well impossible in future.

    1. chronicdashedgehog

      Re: Pay fairly for digital goods and labor

      That's an interesting take on it. I agree

  4. karlkarl Silver badge

    In 2003 Sony put forward a patent so that you could skip adverts by standing up from the couch and shouting the brand name (such as yelling "McDonalds!").

    Absolutely should NPM have adverts, and every time the developer pulls a dependency down from it, they should have to stand up and shout away the advert.

    The world is becoming a magical place XD

    1. Tigra 07

      During British tea-times this is going to be a very annoying way of skipping adverts.




      "McCaine's Chips!"

      "Fucking Vagisil AGAIN!"

      "We Buy Any Car!"

  5. LateAgain

    Random plug : tidelift

    A way to support the projects that your business depends on.

    Ref floss weekly show 504

  6. Elledan Silver badge

    Welcome to the 90s

    Making an open source business model sustainable is nothing new. During the 90s it were companies like RedHat which figured out that combining open source, proprietary code and services was a good mix. Advertising is more the Google model that popped up years later.

    Unfortunately, 'just slap some ads on it' is only a viable strategy if your business is called 'Google', and even there one has to question the long-term viability. Spending some thought on what it is that your customers actually want, and how one could generate revenue off it should be preferable, if only because - surprisingly - customers don't like looking at ads.

    Perhaps that providing support, or making one's contribution donation ware would work better than ads? A lot there depends on the perceived value that is being provided. In the case of NPM it's been often noted that it's mostly a collection of tiny snippets of JavaScript, not unlike those one could copy freely from sites everywhere during the 90s.

    Maybe the expectation of making money off JavaScript should be adjusted?

    1. chuBb. Silver badge

      Re: Welcome to the 90s

      Meh Npm is just a me2 package manager for those who thought Ruby on rails was more than a flash in the pan and then jumped ship to node, who are furiously reading python for dummies now to be at the vanguard of medium techno regurgitation articles, while working out of Starbucks playing at startups. Everyone else just gets on with it using boring c#, java, c or for those who know no better php (come back vbscript all is forgiven, honestly maintaining an asp classic site I developed 20 years ago was so much less brain damaging than trying to get a filter box to default to closed in the current woocommerce codebase (my own fault should refuse to help friends))

      So ramble aside I fully agree ;)

    2. Tomato42

      Re: Welcome to the 90s

      > RedHat which figured out that combining open source, proprietary code and services was a good mix.

      technical correction: Red Hat was not and is not developing proprietary code, at best it was and is distributing proprietary code (Flash in Ye Olden days, firmware modules now). Usually it was used to run the proprietary code though (Oracle databases were big in the early days).

    3. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: Welcome to the 90s

      I remember having the idea of introducing a "support right". Essentially, the idea of charging to support a product should be restricted to the developers, unless they sold on that right.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Perverse incentive

        I aspire to write programs that can be used without applying to me for support. That would fail if support is the thing that I get paid for.

    4. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Welcome to the 90s

      or in the case of that (no doubt unnecessary) "standard" javascript thing [is there NOT already ENOUGH JavaScript POLLUTION out there already already?] a way to monetize something WE CAN DO WITHOUT.

      OK admit NOT having seen it, but 2 words "javascrit" and the name "standard" tells me that it's probably some B.S. "captain obvious wrote it" TRIVIAL module that can be completely OBLITERATED without causing damage to the open source world... (am I right?)

      This is what happens when the SHEEPLE become complacent about OPERATING SYSTEMS SERVING UP ADVERTISEMENTS (you know, like Win-10-nic and all of that adware on phones). Next stop, the TV screen like you see in Idiocracy, which is like a 50" screen but only about 25" is actual content - ADS ALL AROUND with moving pictures and "click me" flashing etc. to the point where you just put the blinders on and ignore it all anyway.

      From the article: many people who maintain open source projects have complained that companies and individuals take advantage of their labor and profit from it without giving something back

      Open source has SEVERAL benefits to the author, some not so obvious:

      a) proof of work/ability - people can see how you code, how you engineer things

      b) public project management - if you manage one, your management abilities are on display

      c) indirect payment - if you write open source, and you use open source, assume that your efforts of making open source are "paying" for the open source stuff you use already. You're "contributing".

      that aside from just making something useful avaiilble for others. I've been trying to put trivial utilities online for others to use as sample code, even. At some point someone may find them useful, even if it's just sample code. And if I'm not doing anything special with those utilities, might as well put them on github or wherever and say "here are some useful things, use however you want".

      But injecting ads in a COMMAND LINE UTILITY? That is WORSE than NAGWARE!!!

      A big fat FAIL to the author who DARED to inject ads into a command line utility! SHAME! (and I bet your not-so-important library is just TRIVIAL CAPTAIN OBVIOUS stuff... without me even looking at it!)

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: Welcome to the 90s

        Ok out of curiosity I found the thing in order to confirm my suspicions. I was VERY close...

        It's a worthless utility that could be done by other existing utilities, except they won't have the DRACONIAN WRONG ATTITUDE like THIS (from the docs):

        "I disagree with rule X, can you change it?

        "No. "

        That kinda says it all.

        he's forcing Javascript code style, makes a point about "bike shedding" to justify the DICTATOR attitude about programming style (he also uses K&R style, WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!) for his so-called "standard" and then STOPS PEOPLE from DOING ANYTHING DIFFERENT (if they use his USELESS tool at any rate).

        FreeBSD has the 'indent' utility. what more would you need??

        no _WONDER_ he had the CHUTZPAH to put ADS in the command line! It's the *SAME* kind of thinkiing that has brought us (*ahem* finger-crack)

        a) 2D FLATTY McFLATFACE FLATSO [and take away ALL user customization and alternatives]

        b) ADWARE built into the OS

        c) TRACK YOU javascript *EVERYWHERE* (no we're not violating privacy you AGREED to this)

        d) monolithic scripting libraries "you must use" or you're accused of having "spaghetti code"

        e) Australis

        f) Change for the Sake of Change™ because WE FEEL™


        worth a nuke explosion icon. I _HATE_ this kind of CRAP

        1. RyokuMas Silver badge

          Re: Welcome to the 90s

          "I _HATE_ this kind of CRAP"

          ... and I would wager that the vast majority of forum-posters hate excessive use of caps, stars, underscores, deliberate misspelling and name-calling, but there you go.

  7. dajames Silver badge

    Maybe the expectation of making money off JavaScript should be adjusted?

    I'd pay a small subscription to see javascript-free versions of the sites I visit ...

    Maybe that's not what you meant?

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Maybe the expectation of making money off JavaScript should be adjusted?

      merely blocking script from the ads and those monolithic CDN "libraries" would be a good start.. a utility that successfully does THAT through a constantly maintained BLACKLIST might be worth a subscription.

    2. Anne-Lise Pasch

      Re: Maybe the expectation of making money off JavaScript should be adjusted?

      Is there a way to optimise above and below-the-fold without javascript? I'm all for clean markup, but unless browsers come with a way to do built-in device detection, etc, I'm still beholden to the frameworks.

      1. chuBb. Silver badge

        Re: Maybe the expectation of making money off JavaScript should be adjusted?

        Easy, no css no java script, don't nest block items more than 3 deep looks crap though :P

        But truthfully yeah u can do it js free it's just v difficult to add it to a layout if it's not baked in from the get go, inline css and lots of!important statements, most of the optimisations u find online are retro fit quick fixes for layouts failing uat due to bad pingdom or lighthouse reports

  8. Julz Silver badge


    "Maintainers are just starting to wake up to our own power. Expect to be surprised. This certainly won’t be the last open source funding experiment."

    This sounds too much like a threat for my liking. Before you call your brothers to arms you'd better be very sure of where the power really resides.

    1. chuBb. Silver badge

      Re: Threat

      I'd just tell him to fork off

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: Threat

        good one!

      2. Korev Silver badge

        Re: Threat

        Oh you gut!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stop moaning

    If you don't agree with the model, don't publish your code under it

    1. karlkarl Silver badge

      Re: Stop moaning

      Agreed and one that isn't secretly run by a corporation. Probably Joyent.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stop moaning

      I was going to add the same, if you're going to give it away for free, expect people to use it for free.

      If you're saying free for private use, add protections to detect corporate use.

      End of the day, don't cry if what you've posted publicly is used by the public and your tip jar isn't paying the rent.

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Stop moaning

      or, fork it under a compatible license (suggested earlier as "tell him to fork off") without the ads

  10. eldakka Silver badge

    Expecting to receive revenue directly from developing or maintaining open source sorta defeats the point, doesn't it? It's like expecting to become rich by being a movie star. 99% of people who move to Hollywood to become a star find themselves waiting tables or doing other non-acting jobs for the rest of their lives. 0.9% get repeat work as extras (jeering crowd member 5, zombie-horde zombie 29), maybe even enough to live on. 0.09% get regular work as secondary characters or B-movies and do "ok". 0.001% are successful and earn a good living, maybe even become rich.

    Making revenue indirectly is where I'd expect it to be at.

    For example, academically - teaching/training about the open source you are a developer on. Or on the lecture circuit, being paid to present keynotes at conferences, or to corporations, etc. That is, you use your reputation as an open source developer to generate revenue.

    Or, for most, a company that uses open source decides to hire some developers (or contract another company to do so) to work for the company who's work is on open source because the company uses it therefore wants to make sure it has a certain level of direct support (staff who maintain it), e.g. RedHat. In this way you are making money as a professional developer, who happens to have been assigned a task from their paymasters that involves working on open source projects.

  11. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    What's all this moaning about not getting paid for working Open Source ?

    I'm sorry, you're submitting code that is open and free and you're whining about not getting paid for it ?

    That's not how it works. You contribute to Open Source because you want to make things better for everyone, not because you want to get paid. If getting paid is your goal, then close-source it. Make a product and sell it and find out just how useful your code is watching the money roll in (or not).

    I'm sick of these people hijacking a public-good-oriented project in order to make money.

    1. Anne-Lise Pasch

      Re: What's all this moaning about not getting paid for working Open Source ?

      And then, when its succesful... pay the hosting bill! If you have success, you should fork over your life savings to keep it a public service, dammit! /sarcasm

  12. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    How are the ads delivered?

    For anyone accustomed to more mature build tools, the defining characteristic of npm is the way it emits an avalanche of messages, many of them irrelevant or misleading*. I don't suppose anybody reads them all unless something has gone wrong, in which case you won't be in a receptive frame of mind for ads.

    Also, I've always assumed that the secret of internet advertising is that the cost-per-impression is low but the number of impressions is high. This sounds like you'd be lucky to achieve 100 impressions in a day.

    * It's particularly bizarre when it follows a shoal of errors with a comforting assurance that you can ignore the errors as long as the final message is SUCCESS.

  13. J27 Silver badge

    I'm very surprised he could find anyone willing to pay to advertise, in the text console to developers who might never even read it (especially if they're using a graphical tool or scripting it). YouTube is having trouble getting paid for full pre-roll video ads these days.

  14. Christian Berger

    Here we see the difference between "Open Source" and "Free (as in speech) Software"

    If you write a "Free" (as in speech) piece of software you typically don't have to maintain it for other people. You write it, make it work for you and perhaps for the people you care about, but any "power user" is expected to modify it for themselves. Of course only a fraction of the users will do so, but that should be more than enough to sustain development.

    "Open Source" software, on the other hand, takes the idea of delivering source code and combines that with the traditional model of software creation and distribution. You have one entity that writes and maintains the code, but the users are not supposed to really take part in it.

    Automatic dependency management tools like npm actually follow more the "Open Source" aspect of it. You have packages which are maintained by a few people and you use without actually looking at their code. As with any dependency this brings risks. Since such tools make it so easy to add dozends of dependencies nobody stops to think about the risks any more. That's how you get tiny libraries doing trivial things that nobody checks for malware.

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