back to article Open-source JavaScript project Babel 'running out of money' after employing paid maintainers, sponsors pull out

The open-source Babel JavaScript compiler project is running out of money with big sponsors having pulled out, according to its core team. And its creator yesterday threw a spanner into the works by claiming on Twitter that he believed funds were "misallocated." Babel compiles modern JavaScript (ECMAScript 2015+) into code …

  1. alain williams Silver badge

    Open source stuff should be free ...

    to everyone, especially the large corporates who depend on it. Guys should work for free so that these corporates can make even more money, why should they contribute a penny when they can get it for free, free, free .... ?

    And if they did pay for features to be added then their competitors might use these features and that would be a bad, bad thing!

    If the FLOSS software does not quite do what they want: then they will pay many times more than a contribution to the FLOSS developers ... because, well, closed source vendors need to be paid, you cannot use their stuff without making large, repeated, payments ... that is how it works y'know.

    Well, that seems to be the attitude. I suspect that if they did a real cost benefit analysis then helping FLOSS would come out on top - often (not always); but the managers & bean counters cannot see that. If it is open source it should be free, free, free!

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Open source stuff should be free ...

      It is free. Nobody is paying to use Babel JavaScript.

      But if you want the project to survive, you need to have people willing to give their time to that, and it is simpler and easier to attract developers if they get a financial incentive out of it - especially if you want the good ones to work full-time.

      That being said, I'm sorry but $11k a month is not the kind of incentive I think is justified for an open-source project. Up to $4k could be justified, following the amount of work the developer contributes, but I think that is pretty much the high bar.

      It's Open Source. A living wage, yes, but if you're in it for the money, go back to being a company drone. Either that or create a startup and go hit venture capital.

      1. Jon 37 Silver badge

        Re: Open source stuff should be free ...

        $4k a month is $48k/year. Less taxes. Depending on where you live, that may be a very low salary for a developer or project manager role. There are cheap places in the world, but then there are places where you might struggle to pay your living expenses (rent, bills, health insurance) with that little cash.

        If he's in California and working as an experienced full time project manager, and adding significant value, then $131k/year isn't too unreasonable. Similarly for a full-time developer.

      2. Muppet Boss Bronze badge
        Trollface

        Re: Open source stuff should be free ...

        >That being said, I'm sorry but $11k a month is not the kind of incentive I think is justified for an open-source project.

        Agree, $20k a month is much better. Impossible? Well...

        https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation_salaries

        1. sabroni Silver badge

          Re: https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation_salaries

          Ah yes, Jimbo's massive yacht fund. There's an example to copy!

    2. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

      Re: Open source stuff should be free ...

      You decided to give the software for free? Good. Just don’t complain later that people who use it don’t pay you.

      Open Source destroyed any chance for companies to come up with a paid for products and compete. Now you reap what you saw.

      1. Muppet Boss Bronze badge

        Re: Open source stuff should be free ...

        Sorry but that's utter bollocks.

        Open source makes progress by allowing others to stand on the shoulders of giants and re-use their work, while hopefully improving it for the mutual benefit. A lot of open source projects are infrastructure components (operating systems, web and application servers, databases, compilers and interpreters for programming languages etc). I am yet to hear someone complaining about the lack of commercial competition in these areas.

        Other popular open source projects such as graphic, photo and video editors, office software struggle to compete with commercial products and are often aimed at those who cannot afford to pay. Again, I am yet to hear that someone failed to sell a photo editor because Gimp stole all the market.

        Then there are such things as web browsers which are a bit difficult to categorize. By the same logic, would flock to buy them if only others did not give them out for free.

        People and companies make and save a lot of money on open source by using it in their products and not having to re-develop the wheel that is also compatible with an axle.

        Many people and companies behind the open source products are making good money on it:

        - by selling the product as a managed service (SaaS/PaaS/IaaS etc) - that's usually a lot of money.

        - by using a freemium model when functionality commonly required by large enterprises is only available in the paid version.

        - by selling commercial support or professional services.

        - by finding sponsors (often large-scale product users or outright commercial competitors that would otherwise risk attention from regulators for monopoly power).

        Open source developers should not be poor souls, far from that. If NGINX was sold from $670M, it means, there's good money to be made.

        Imho for Babel it is just the same mantra as for many US tech startups, both open source and not: no business plan needed, just grow the user base: if we quickly grow too-big-to-fail, and lots of people use our product or depend on it, we will find a way to monetize it later or promptly sell it for big millions and someone else finds a way to monetize it.

    3. davidmhjr

      Re: Open source stuff should be free ...

      He's fundraising... How long did it take him to get to $130K?

  2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Lady Godiva OSS

    Open Source software is like riding naked to try and benefit a part of the world - everybody loves it, talks about it, and mentions you in the press. But the end is never going to be much benefit to you ... eventually the software retires and after a while nobody knows where it's buried. This doesn't mean that it's not good (and fun sometimes too) - it is normally a very good thing to do but it's always going to benefit the rest of the world far more than anyone originally doing the work.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Which is not a problem for many people who work in Open Source.

      It is not much of a problem either for projects that can be realized by one person.

      It's when you need a team, and need to coordinate, and use procedures for submitting code etc, that's where Open Source falters if there isn't good management and some form of financial backing.

  3. LosD

    'A large part of Zhu's work was in publicising and raising funds, Ribaudo explained. "Henry is the one who contacts companies trying to explain to them why they should support us, the one who gives most talks at their internal events: he's the one working on fundraising for the team."'

    And what a stellar job he's been doing!

    'Funds to run out at end of 2021'

    Oh... Nevermind.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      So he took a pay cut. Perhaps it should be a percentage of .... something? Maybe he could try hitting up Bill Gates now Bill might be looking for new meaning in his life. A billionaire in need of redemption is a friend indeed.

      1. martyn.hare
        Trollface

        Divorce was an opportunity

        For the rest of us to realise we should never get married!

  4. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    Commits... what an asinine metric!

    Not all commits are created equal! Reminds me of paying people based on lines of code

    /*

    *

    * Or

    * Boilerplate

    * Comments nobody

    * Reads

    *

    */

    As a chief hardware engineer, I can measure the commits I've done in the last decade on one hand, but I feel my strongly nonzero salary is nonetheless justified...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Commits... what an asinine metric!

      Hi, it's your boss here. Less than 5 commits in a decade, and still time to post on The Reg? Clear your desk!

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Re: Commits... what an asinine metric!

        You can count up to 12 or even 32 on one hand. 5 is the minimum.

  5. Elledan Silver badge

    Open Source vs Open Exploitation

    An important issue that situations like these highlight is the important distinction between source code being open and freely available, and the value of the work being put into said source code. For some reason it appears that people seem to mix the two up, even when closed source projects can just as well be unpaid hobby projects, and open source projects practically driven by commercial interests.

    An interesting project is for example the Linux kernel, which by Linus' own admission could not have grown to where it's today if it wasn't for countless paid employees at companies around the world investing time and effort into developing the kernel and associated infrastructure.

    When the expectation is that an open source project must by definition be developed by unpaid volunteers, then we end up at what is basically exploitation-ware. If a person is not duly compensated for their time and effort in some fashion, then this amounts to exploitation at best, and slavery at worst.

    As someone who runs a couple of OSS projects which are moderately successful, I am well aware of the pressure that a project's success creates, but also the dangers that come with it. People may like the project, and gladly use it. Yet one should never lose sight of what is most important there: one's own happiness and health.

    If you're not being paid for work, it's a hobby. Hobbies by definition have to be fun and bring some sense of reward. Nobody can force you to 'do' a hobby, because at that point it is work, and the person who pushes you to do such work should compensate you for it.

    Which then raises the interesting question of how much a project is truly worth, and how much of the modern technology stack is based on such cynical exploitation of what are or were essentially hobby projects?

    1. HildyJ Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Open Source vs Open Exploitation

      And yet corporations that contribute their own programmers' work to the community are often denigrated.

      If Microsoft offered to take over maintenance of Babel, some here would consider it a bad thing.

  6. Efer Brick

    Charidee shop

    PhuxAche

  7. FlippingGerman

    Holy shit

    11k per month gets it across rather better than 130k per year. Holy shit that's a lot of money, what do people even spend that on?

    1. Mr. Moose

      Re: Holy shit

      Rent in NYC. Average 4k/mo.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Holy shit

      In many parts of the US, $11K / month pre-tax is not a lot of money to live on. Even in the cheaper areas, if you're supporting a family, paying off college debt, etc, it's comfortable at best.

  8. Blackjack Silver badge

    In this case I wonder who has been pocketing money...

  9. sabroni Silver badge

    "We strongly believe that working in open source should be a viable and sustainable career path"

    Look at the value you generate for others and look at the value you generate for yourself.

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