Ryan Chartrand


How Webpack raised $15,000 in 3 months, and the future of open source

The future of open source software is incredibly bright, and we have Webpack and OpenCollective to thank for building the foundation.

It’s a future where teams actually contribute to the sustainability of the open source code they use and are incentivized to do so not for charity, but for real ROI.

It’s a future that I’d argue might even calm down the constant introduction of new tech in the industry.

How it began

In early 2016, the world was given OpenCollective, a fundraising site for groups (but is primarily dominated by open source and coders).

One of their goals that I love is to shift the idea that giving money to an open source project is charity, but rather is a way to sustain a project that your company’s product relies on.

It wasn’t until October 2016 though that that vision started to come to life once the increasingly popular project Webpack joined the site.

$15,000 in 3 months

It didn’t take long before companies started contributing $100 or more per month to Webpack on OpenCollective.

Here’s just a small chunk of the list of sponsors:
(shameless plug for my company X-Team in the bottom left as we are big Webpack fans)

CapitalOne even committed to $12,000 throughout the next year.

A year ago, these sorts of contributions to an open source project just didn’t exist unless you were backed by a massive company like Google (Angular), Facebook (React) or Acquia (Drupal)/Automattic (WordPress).

Although I suspect some of these companies are sponsoring Webpack for marketing-related reasons, many are contributing because Webpack is a vital piece of their development workflow now.

If Webpack’s core team were to drop out one day, a lot of companies wouldn’t have a sustainable workflow for the long-term. Also the speed at which new improvements and bug fixes can be made increases the better funded a project is.

Not to mention just pure accountability — most open source projects get abandoned because actually getting paid through a job tends to trump their priorities.

Webpack isn’t alone, just look at Vue.js

Evan You, the creator Vue.js, has been earning a living via Patreon for about a year now so he could focus full-time on the project.

The result?

Companies now choosing Vue.js over React.

When you put money behind these projects, the chances of creating sustainability for open source projects is far greater.

Remember Heartbleed? That’s what happens when an open source project (OpenSSL) gets a shoe-string budget.

The future: Open source projects creating incentives for sponsors

Just today, Webpack gave us a glimpse into the future once again.

Below you’ll see that they are now offering, via their OpenCollective, office hours and on-site training for any of their sponsors contributing $500+/mo.

I can already hear CapitalOne opening their wallets.

In the future, not only will contributing funding to open source projects help ensure sustainability of projects, but it’ll also deliver value in the form of support to help your team get even better at using those projects.

And Webpack goes on to show us yet another glimpse into the future.

At https://webpack.js.org/vote/ you can vote on how the core team should be spending their time:

And best of all (and perhaps even a debatable topic), sponsors are given “Golden influence” with some more weight to their votes.

I imagine this is just the beginning of the ways to incentivize companies to become sponsors, and I can’t wait to see what Webpack and other projects will bring in the future.

The Larkin Effect

Sean Larkin of Webpack at NEJS Conf

It’s important to note that this future isn’t possible without more people in the dev community like Sean Larkin, Webpack’s ambassador and core team member.

He close-to-religiously promotes Webpack and does a damn good job at ensuring Webpack has a strong future. Much like Evan You of Vue.js, these guys create confidence for companies to want to invest in them.

What I hope and pray is that this movement does not stop here, that more open source projects follow Webpack’s lead and find creative ways to entice businesses to fund their projects by providing real value back to them.

Otherwise, we’ll be looking back at this time in history as no more than The Larkin Effect, that which happens when you get Sean Larkin on your core team.

As a greater dev community, we need to support and create more Larkinians (yep, just coined it) if we’re going to create this bright future.

Consider this also a request to Sean to help teach others how to do what he does :)

A slowdown in constant new tech?

Finally, this future makes me wonder if it can create a slowdown in the dev community constantly needing to create new frameworks and libraries.

If projects are actually sustained and supported and not dropping out all the time, does there become less desire to constantly reinvent the wheel?

Is it possible that the cause of constant new tech in our industry is the result of projects lacking any support before they fall to the next cool thing?

Looking at well-funded projects like React and Angular and their relatively long existence, I can’t help but wonder this theory. Would love your thoughts in the comments.

I put heart into every post I write. I’m incredibly grateful to anyone who returns the favor by clicking 💚 :)

Ryan Chartrand is the CEO of X-Team, a global team of extraordinary remote developers who can join your team and start executing today.

Check out and subscribe to X-Team’s blog at http://x-team.com/blog

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