Profile PictureCyrille Tuzi

Why Schematics Pro is not free, or the true cost of open source

With Schematics Pro, some of you may be surprised to have to pay for a Visual Studio Code extension. We have all been used to think open source is free. But as any product in the current economy, it is not. What is really surprising is to have come to a point where you have to justify why your hard work should be paid.

The reality of open source

The origin of this situation is the confusion about what is an Open Source Software. Indeed, there are 2 very different kind of OSS:

1. Corporate open source

Most of the biggest OSS projects belong to a (big) company. They are developed by dedicated teams of (very) well paid developers. The usage of these OSS projects may seem free, but it is not really the case: one way or another, they serve as advertising for their owning companies. It may be to attract you in an ecosystem with other paid products, or to sell you consulting and support. It may be to encourage you to use specific tools, which collect personal data. It may be just for company branding, so we are not too critical about the company political, ethical, environmental or social practices.

2. Community open source

The rest is volunteer work from the community. It usually starts as a small project for a personal use case or as part of learning. It is developed by someone unpaid, who is kind enough to make it openly available to all for free. It may help improve the author reputation, but it will not result in a direct retribution.

My free Angular Schematics extension for VS Code, on which is based Schematics Pro, is part of this second group.

The open source maintainer problem

Problem is, when a community open source project draws attention and begins to be used by a lot of people, soon it is not a small project anymore. The free Angular Schematics extension is currently used by 600 000 developers.

Here is a jumble list of what being in charge of a project used in a professional context means: to handle all cases and configurations, to fix the inevitable issues, to keep code up to date, to deal with the dependencies and browsers own issues, to write a complete documentation, to configure a build and release pipeline, to write tests to avoid regressions, to manage the community on GitHub, etc.

It is a non-exhaustive list and a lot of work. About my open source work, we are talking about months of full-time unpaid work. Inevitably comes a moment where it is too much.

The Schematics Pro solution

So I was faced to a choice: throwing to the bin all the ideas I still had and which could improve the every day experience of thousands of developers, or finding a way to finance my work.

I tried the GitHub sponsoring model during one year. Epic fail. Only 4 sponsors (0,0007% of the 600 000 Angular Schematics users). 131,21€ raised in 12 months, less than 100€ after tax deduction. It may be a good model for very big projects managed by a foundation, but not for a lone contributor.

That is why I came back to a more classic business model with Schematics Pro.

Acting like a professional

Do you imagine a baker without an oven? Or a mason without a hammer? All jobs need tools, of good quality. And in a normal economic environment, these tools are not free, because they are also the work of someone else.

The developer mindset has been so messed up that it doesn't even cross a developer's mind that they can ask their company to pay for the good tools. Guess what? Your company pays the Adobe Creative Suite to the graphic designers, Figma to the UX designers, Slack and Jira to the managers, and so on.

Same goes for developers. Schematics Pro is a professional tool, and in a healthy work environment, it should be paid by your company.

So it's time to get Schematics Pro. :)

Schematics Pro v2.2: React, Vue & custom schematics

Schematics Pro v2.0

Schematics Pro early access release!

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