August 31, 2000

Co-op 'bazaar' for Open Source software

Author: JT Smith

By Tony Granata
News Editor

Got an idea for a piece of Open Source software to be written or enhanced but don't have the resources or know how to get it done? Well, NewsForge has found the place for you. is a collaborative, reverse-auction Web site enabling international consumers and developers of Open Source products to work together to fund development of innovative software solutions.

The brainchild of Bernie Thompson, founder and CEO of Cosource, the original model for this idea is outlined in his article "Market Making for the Bazaar". In the article Thompson writes, " is a commercial enterprise created to provide the range of services required to make cooperative funding a success for buyers, developers, and the Open Source community in general."

How it works

The process brings three key elements of the Open Source Community together.

MEMBERS: First, one must become a member of the Cosource community. Once people become members, they can submit requests for software projects that they would like to see developed or enhanced. Members are responsible for deciding which projects will get developed and contributing to the funding of those projects that do. There are no fees for becoming a member, creating a request, or submitting proposals.

DEVELOPERS: After becoming a registered member, you can apply to become a developer. Once you are registered as a developer, you may submit proposals to develop requested packages.

AUTHORITIES: After becoming a registered member, you can apply to become a authority.
The authority is charged with the responsibility of deciding if the developer's work meets the proposal's specifications.

The process in a nutshell:

1. Members request new Open Source packages, enhancements or documentation, listing the full functional requirements;

2. Developers submit proposals to develop the package, naming an "authority," or third-party peer-reviewer, along with a bid (price) and time schedule;

3. Members review proposals, and may elect to commit funds to one or more -- the minimum commitment is $10 U.S.;

4. Whichever proposal is first to gather enough commitments to cover the bid wins and enters development;

5. Once the Authority declares the project complete, it is released,then all members who committed funds pay their commitments by credit card;

6. then pays the developer and authority for their work, minus a fair mark-up.


Members benefit by:

Gaining the ability to specify the Open Source package they need written;
Sharing the costs of development with other members, perhaps saving as much as 99% over paying the developer themselves;
Eliminating their involvement with tedious business contracts and payment issues.

Developers benefit by:

Gaining a venue for less experienced developers to take on small-scale, but paid work;
Allowing more experienced developers to potentially earn a living writing Open Source packages;
Having an opportunity to survey a potential market before submitting a proposal to perform work.

And of course, the Open Source Community gains more freely available source code.


In his original model, Thompson states, "If successful, Cosource could accelerate the pace of innovation even further and create a small industry around developing free software." To date Cosource has had:

305 requests with total interest of $169,768;
51 proposals with total commitments of $24,419;
40 leading proposals with commitments of $23,689;
One project in development;
18 projects completed.

With these numbers, it seems Cosource is well on its way to filling Thompson's expectations. To become a member, or find out more information, visit the Cosource Web site.


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