The Premium Branch™ Manifesto

I am an open source developer and I would like to make a living from my labor of love. I believe all code hosting platforms currently in existence fail to offer me the one single feature that could make this a reality: the premium branch. A premium branch would be a special authenticated branch that only paying customers can access, controlled by the source hosting service.

Sites like github, bitbucket, gitorious, and source forge are all ignoring a massive untapped market helping indie developers sell their services and goods. Help them realize this so they can help you make money.

How It Could Work

Step 1: Branch

I create a branch in my project named "premium" that will hold whatever I decide is a premium set of features for my project. This could be docs, early code, anything I want.

Step 2: Payments

I fill out forms to receive payments through a payment processor of your choice. I could give you Stripe id, a WePay Platform OAuth, or a Paypal Address. I'll even let you skim a few bucks off the top.

Step 3: Make Money

You then offer my users the ability to "go premium" by paying this subscription fee to access this premium branch. It'd be cool if you also offer a few lawyer vetted licenses I could use. Either way, we both make money.


FAQ

Won't this destroy FLOSS forever?

Who knows, but what I do know is that it's too difficult to make money creating open source compared to the amount of money other people make from it. If this balance of power is not corrected I fear FLOSS will actually die.

Wouldn't [some complicated VCS feature] be better than a branch?

I'll leave that to people who actually run sites for VCS tools to decide. The term "premium branch" is just a good phrase for a "special easy to manage visible version of my software that someone can pay to subscribe to".

What if someone just forks it and steals it?

You'd need to setup the licenses to protect against this, or just trust people on the honor system. I'm not getting into that though since doing so would potentially ruin the marketplace and prevent people from differentiating their offerings.

Couldn't you do this from another website?

Maybe, but you don't control the users' access to the code, so you'd be fighting against the existing hosting company's network effects. Feel free to get someone to fund the idea though.

Why not just use donations?

Donations have accounting and taxation problems unless you're a not-for-profit. They also aren't a steady reliable source of income and frequently donations stop after the first set. There's also the psychological problem that many programmers absolutely hate begging for money. A subscription system that involves a fair trade of goods is far superior.

Why do you have a ™ on this?

I'm just making sure no single company can run out and claim they own the phrase. I don't plan on doing anything more than this.

Why don't you do it if it's such a good idea?

First, I'm lazy and I already do something else I'm more interested in. Second, it would take a bunch of money to compete with the existing source hosting companies to convince their users to migrate to something new. It's better if those companies do this, or someone with a lot of money tries to use this idea to compete with them.


© Zed A. Shaw 2012