Open Ballot: Would you pay for Linux?


Depending on how you pay for it, you'll probably have to part with at least fifty quid for Windows 8, and double (or more) for OS X, and they come with almost no software compared to the average Linux distribution. Yet almost all Linux distributions are free as in zero-cost.

This fortnight we've got a simple question for you: would you (or indeed, do you) pay for Linux?

As we all know, Linux is free software, but free-as-in-speech software doesn't have to be free-as-in-beer.

As a paying customer you could expect more say in how the distro was developed. At the very least, you could take your business elsewhere if a distro started heading down a path you didn't like. Perhaps a distro is building a display server named after a space hotel that the financier once stayed in, and you think that their effort could be better spent working on an almost-finished cross-distro solution. Or maybe the developers are working on the third iteration of a desktop environment named after garden ornaments and you feel that it would be more prudent not to wantonly delete useful features. You can of course switch to a different distro as it is, but with less users not currently making much difference to a company's profit, they may not worry too much about loosing a few.

The money raised could be used to pay developers to work on the problems that users want fixed, rather than the problems of businesses or benevolent dictator's pet projects.

Of course, introducing money doesn't magically solve all problems. The cost may put people off trying new distros, especially lesser known ones. Maybe cash would destroy the sense of community that builds up around Linux.

Let us know what you think in the comments and we'll read them out in our upcoming podcast.

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Your comments

I see a common theme here ...

It seems that a lot of Linux users donate simply because they do not have to. As soon as you make it obligatory, you're putting people off from the word go.

Already have

I paid for Xandros (having already been a Linux user for a while), and just bought a laptop with Ubuntu preinstalled.
I use Linux because it works for me, not because it is "free". I support open source for many reasons, and cost is *way* down the totem pole.

-- Chris (linux user since 1999)

No, No, NO!

How would that work for the many distos that piggyback on the time and effort put into the big 6 linux distributions?

Many contribute to the development of Linux, freely giving their time and whatever skills they can offer.
Sometimes the skills are coding sometimes support on forums or artwork. Others value the uniqueness of the disto they use and freely donate money.

Charging for Linux would be a reason for those developments that make each distro unique becoming closed source or even copyrighted.

I think it would quickly result to a reduction in diversity.

It would also see the demise of the coverdisk on Linux magazines.......

YES, but rather donation

YES, but paying for open source is multifaceted compared to paying for closed source.

The programme is expected to be there for free, but many (including myself)

* donate for a particular project (e.g. Gnome, LibreOffice)
* buy books written by developers (e.g. Inkscape and Gnome books)
* Sponsor the development of certain features (e.g. Freedomsponsors platform)
* Buy techical support.
* Buy software which is built on open source software and whose developers contribute upstream (e.g. Codeweavers Crossover Office)

Already Pay, In a Way

I am running CrunchBang Linux, and I send the maintainer a check each year or so to keep him alive and working on updates. If I should ever get back to running Slackware, I will buy the install media from the "Store" for the same reason.

This is a way that I can help keep the distro going.

YGGDRASIL Fall '95 edition...

I DID pay for a Linux flavour...

YGGDRASIL Fall '95 Edition.

2 CDs:-

Install and full source code.

Boxed with a written softbacked Manual...

Cost About 35 QUID IIRC.

Never got it working and gave nelz copies of the two CDs. Not
sure if he ever got it working either...

Which means that after that episode I will not pay for OSS stuff,
especially as I give anything I do away...

I have in the past but it's not worth it.

Over the years I've purchased copies of the following linux distos (SUSE Linux, Caldera OpenLinux, TurboLinux, Red Hat Linux and Corel Linux) - but each of them were replaced by newer distributions or were discontinued. It's just easier to downlaod the latest distro (or buy a copy of Linux Format magazine ;)) and try it for nothing. There's no sense in investing in a target that is moving so fast and there are too many alternatives with a different look & feel that I end up wanting to change.


If I need it,and I can afford it.I will pay for it.If not,i will find another

If all OSs were paid, I'll choose GNU/Linux, still

It cames with dozens of applications inside, it's safer, more flexible, customizable... definitively the best choice.
But being free: it's even better ;-)

Chief Operating Nitwit

Well as TheChadly and SDD pointed out, if you take my money you open yourself to my fist-shaking fury. If you want 20 bucks a version, you'll be sorting out Linux audio. Trust me, I've spent HOURS... I'm in my fifth year of love/hate with Kubuntu.

I haven't bought much FLOSS other than a version of Mandrake a dozen years ago. I should though as I occasionally donate or pay for independent music.

Not job title, you numpty

Hehe, for some reason I thought by title you meant "job title". I blame this on being recently acquainted with the drink known as the Whisky Mac. Damn, they're fine!

Depends rather heavily on

Depends rather heavily on the exact nature of what was being offered but I could certainly myself paying for FOSS I found useful.


I would pay for open source and already have in a way. If you buy an Android device. You've paid. If you buy support from the likes of Canonical, you've paid. If you buy a disc from Canonical, that's paying as well.

We can also pay-in-kind. For example if you recommend your favourite Linux distro or, Firefox or any other open source application then you are paying. Advocating for these projects free of charge is a form of payment.

I would pay real money as well. But there are tougher rules on that. For example, while I use Ubuntu, I don't contribute any real money. Canonical have started dataraping our privet data on behalf of Amazon and their response to the criticism was very Gnomeish.

If an open source project wants real money from me, they have to 100% open and upfront about it and I have to be getting what I want with no nasty surprises.

I already make donations to

I already make donations to projects I find useful. I also taunt application vendors (Franklin Covey, Adobe, OmniPage, and many others) by notifying them when I donate to Linux-supporting competitors, reminding them that there are paying customers they're ignoring who are happy to fund their open-source competitors to punish their failures.

for debian or redhat?


I made a donation for the last slackware 14

As said I made a donation for slck14 for the first time. I think its guilt and conscience that got to me. But even so its worth it, especially since they seemed to be having some difficulties at the time. i also do the occasional donation to an app.

New Model

I think this is only part of the question, since currently. distros for the most part are current, relevant and fully functional. IMHO the desktop struggling to impress. The sector most in need of cash injection is the desktop app. Most importantly the core productivity apps. I think we are in need of central oversight and unification of development. Libre Office is in great shape, but as we back out and look at Gimp, Scribus etc. The development is slow and always non-innovative. Solve this and the free model my be able support itself through sponsorship and donation.

If we adopt a pay model, the tax laws will quickly spoil the meal by favoring a corporate structure and therefor a quartly accountability to stockholders. At that point the motivation to sell crap to get a dollar on the report is too strong. FAIL. For Linux

no no no

Adopting a pay model would create the same incentives that control Microsoft and Apple. It "might" encourage better development (ATI graphics anyone?) though. But Linux would lose its personality. Everything would get locked down and be patented. Bad idea.

No way

Paying anything for Open Source destroys the entire concept of what open source is all about. A simple Pay Pal donate tab on the app or distro main page for donations is fine, but soliciting or charging goes against everything I have come to think of in open source. Maybe I am a bit Idealistic but I still believe in a free internet and free open exchange of information and ideas, for the simple sake of making something better and learning. It is not a business it is knowledge.


Open source does not mean free, as in, no money to support a projects developers. Open source means an open license to modify, distribute, etc, an application or peace of software and it's source code. Using since the release of FC3, I have learned that while having open source and free from restraint software is cool, it also has it's drawbacks. I would gladly pay for a distribution that was stable, provided the Gnome 2 environment, proprietary drivers and codecs, etc. Look at how full of bugs Windows is, even at 2 to 3 hundred dollars a pop, it still sucks. MS is in the habit of releasing bug filled fluff. Soliciting is not bad if you provide a service/product that is stable and worth while and it does not destroy open source. Pay for provides quality developers, the tools they need, including a variety of hardware to target.

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