How Gratipay Helps Solve the 'Free Rider' Problem

There is a way to help companies pay for open source software.

Chad WhitacreOpen source has come a long way, but the "free rider" problem still exists.

In a lightning talk at All Things Open, Chad Whitacre shared how his company, Gratipay, is helping companies pay for open source software.

The problem

While companies like Red Hat have figured out how to make open source development sustainable, Whitacre points out that there are still big parts of the open source ecosystem that aren't sustainable. These projects are plagued by what he calls the "free rider" problem.

"So many of us use this software and we assume that somebody else is paying for it somehow, but often times that is not the case," Whitacre said.

One of the most extreme examples of the "free rider" problem came in the form of OpenSSL's Heartbleed vulnerability back in 2014. The project was being maintained by a single developer working for well under a normal salary, yet over half the world wide web was dependent upon his work.


Whitacre started open source crowdfunding platform Gratipay in 2012 to help companies donate to the communities behind the open source software they use—projects sign up to receive donations from companies and individuals who benefit from their software.

In the future, Whitacre says he wants Gratipay to help developers and companies donate to every open source project in their technology stack.

"Gratipay itself is open source, we're funded on our own platform, and we would love to have you help us work on solving this problem," Whitacre said.

How Gratipay helps solve the 'free rider' problem was authored by and published in It is being republished by Open Health News under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0). The original copy of the article can be found here.