experiments with marketplace

Posted by on Jan 15, 2009 in | 21 Comments

We started an interesting experiment. From today applications, artwork or document templates can be uploaded to, and for free downloading as before. But starting today, you may also select to sell them to users on the Marketplace of We try to do this in a way which is in line with the free software spirit

The Marketplace/App Store on does not take a commission on sales. So 100% goes directly to the developer. It also doesn’t dictate which applications, artwork and documents may be listed. Instead, all applications and artwork are welcomed, including binaries of free software, icon designs, wallpapers and document templates. This is new for the free software world.

Free software for money?
Is it fine to sell free software? Isn´t it forbidden to sell GPL Software and artwork? Isn´t it immoral?

No! It is OK with the GPL to sell free software. All you have to do is to provide the source code. At the moment companies like Redhat or Novell sell binaries of free software. People buy their products because they don´t have to compile the software on their own and they also get support for the software. But, the money goes to the Linux companies and not to the developers. So the new thing is that the free software developers can provide binaries, addons or support for a little money for their users and the income goes 100% into their pockets

Why do we do this?

If the free desktop wants to grab a bigger market share from the desktop market (let’s say, 20% to 30%), we need more full-time developers. Framework developers and also 3rd party application developers. We need thousands of them. But, how do the thousands of developers pay their rent? They can´t all be sponsored by Linux companies. So we need a way 3rd party developers can earn money for their hard work. We hope our Marketplace will create an ecosystem where developers and small companies can sell their applications and users can find easy to use application and tools for little money. We hope the Marketplace will stimulate the market for free software and bring developers and users closer together.

To give a few examples…

– The Amarok project could sell the Windows and mac binaries for 99 cent to their users. So if a lot of users buy the software, the Amarok developers can spend more time on developing Amarok and probably quit their day jobs in future. This is some kind of donation to the project.

– Some artist could create nice wallpapers and give away the 1024×768 version for free, but charge 50 cent for the 1600×1200 version. This way artists can earn a little money and spend more time on creating artwork in future.

– A free software developer can sell a premium version of his software to users who are willing to pay a little bit of money for more features or a different license. Similar to or MySQL. So if a lot of users buy the software, the developers can develop this application full time in future.

– KOffice Template. A user can create a nice document template for KOffice and sell it for $2 to KOffice users. So the users get more, and better, document templates and the people who create these templates get a little money for their work.

We provide the online platform and the payment facility which is Paypal. The only cost incurred by the seller, is the commission charged by Paypal. At the moment we have over 3,800 application and 55,000 artworks uploaded and maintained by developers. We have over 200,000 downloads per day and over 110,000 registered contributors.

With these download stats, 99c per binary, 50c per wallpaper and $2 per document template could add up to a sizable daily turnover for our community of developers. That’s what we are hoping for!

What do you think?


  1. Zayed

    I think it is good idea!

  2. nhnFreespirit

    I think this is a very interesting idea which may or may not work.

    One thing I think is really important though is for it to accessible through applications using, for instance, KNS2 ( Or what is the correct current abbreviation, I forget, the hot new stuff system…)

    Especially for an application like Amarok where scripts are a bit of a hassle to download and install unless you use the integrated “Get More Scripts” button, in which case it is a totally automatic process..

  3. hook

    Well, then I’d demand to have the source file of that GPL licensed wallpaper I downloaded at 640×480 resolution and make my own 1200×800 resolution wallpaper out of it 😉

    …I’m quite sceptical about this idea, myself. I *really* dislike the idea of getting a cool wallpaper for free only at a certain resolution and having to pay for the rest.

    Also take into account that not all KDE users (or others for that matter) have or can have a credit card or PayPal account to pay for such content, even if they wanted to.

  4. Martin Sandsmark

    you must remember that the gpl doesn’t also just force you to give the source code with your binaries, but you must also give the one you sell it to the right to do whatever he wants with it (resell it or whatever).

    Also, to take one of your examples, who’s to stop anyone to make their own binary version of say, amarok, and give it away for free (or just cheaper than the amarok team)?

  5. realitygaps

    My opinion is that this will discourage people from giving out this sort of stuff for free and will break the community of developers into two parts – those who only upload things to get paid and those who give stuff out completely for free.

    It may even mean people start pirating/stealing the non-free versions of the scripts/software/graphics.

    I dont think this is a move forward, sounds more like a move backwards.

    Just my 2c,,,

  6. Dave

    I’m in two minds about this. I think it might work as long as the prices are kept low.

    As Martin says, when people are able to resell as many copies as they like the price quickly tends towards zero – however by offering a central place with plenty of choice, good information, ease-of-use and a friendly community it might be possible to hold the price a little above zero.

    Effectively the product for sale would be convenience rather than the files themselves (which will inevitably be available at no cost elsewhere for those who are prepared to look around)

    I can’t see this allowing anyone to give up their day jobs, at least not on it’s own. However it will be an interesting experiment.

  7. Aaron J. Seigo

    first, i don’t see the problem of profit sharing. if that profit share amount can be set by the author on a free ranging scale of 0% to 100%, i don’t see the problem. it would be a nice way to “kick back” to the projects. of course, the projects would need to also be signed up for this.

    second, we need to integrate this into GHNS2 somehow.

    third, it would be cool if i could pre-purchase credits for use on the site. this would be more work and overhead, obviously, but could be automated. in this case, i certainly think that a profit share to cover the transaction costs would be required. wouldn’t cost much, though.

    fourth, you completely and totally forgot about plasma widgets, engines, etc in your list! i’m deeply offended and may never recover. ;-P

    see you Porto!

  8. Daniël

    I see certainly a use case where people can get services like support for a certain amount of money.

  9. Kraplax

    hm.. that’d be nice idea. What kind of pirating might there be with GPL? What you bought – you may sell as well! Or you may just give it away for free.
    You may burn discs of Linux distros for people daily and nightly for free, but soon you’ll be thinking to get some money for your effort. And GPL allows you to sell the product IF someone is willing to buy it. And yes they are able to sell this product as well.
    Nice idea. You may post your new super cool plasmoid to for $1 for example and you know – you’ll get at least that 1 buck. Later you may cross post it to (or it’s free part) as well (of course, if noone will do it earlier :D). It just can be donate-at-least-once-ware.

  10. Thomas Thym

    I love the idea to make money with OSS to support further development and to help programmers or better contributors to pay their food.

    But I am a little afraid the sharing spirit could be lowered by supporting contributors to share only for money.

    I like all the sites, with all their content and the possibilities to enrich my desktop with a view simple clicks. I don’t know exactly how I would react when I see that I now have to pay (even if it’s only 1 EUR) for that new plasmoid and perhaps have to setup a paypal account. But I think I would be angry at least a little bit. I can’t tell you exactly why. No doubt, the plasmoid will be worth more than only that EUR for me, but I have an unpleasant feeling. I will think about that. Why do I have that feeling and what can be done against it?

  11. Owl

    I’ve seen a similar system used (albeit with rather higher prices) by QtiPlot:

    You can download the source for free, and Linux universal binaries, but you have to pay for Windows/Mac binaries (without horrid limitations). In this case, it relies on being not too well known, so you’re unlikely to find anyone reputable compiling for those platforms and offering the binaries. The price does also include support, but I imagine few people would buy support if they could get the program for free.

  12. Pinheiro

    The simple truth In my case.
    I wuould love that such a system would work, I work about 4-16 hours a day in KDE, and Im out of a joob so it would be wosome if at least I could get some help to pay the house bils from my work.
    Dont get me wrong with or without mony I will keep working on it (at lest as far as I can).
    But i dont think a system like this will work, most of our ecosystem is based on freedom with a sligt misinterpertation to free. like Thomas Thym said “I have an unpleasant feeling”, my gess comes that it comes forom over exposure to internet prepetual scams that want to take our money way without any real value tu you.
    But yeah we have a problem in this area. see you soon 😉

  13. Zayed

    What about : ” If you want this package right now pay some $$ otherwise wait 2 weeks. “

  14. Thomas Thym

    Once upon a time I made some research on open source business strategies and came across the band radiohead.
    They “sold” their album “Rainbow” online and the customer could set the price (even if it was 0). [1]
    So it’s more a kind of donation then a price.
    btw. Wikipedia gained 6 Mio USD by donation and amarok has tried this, too. Does anybody know about their experiences?

    Perhaps donations (or “price is up to you”) could be an option.

    Anyway, you said it’s an experiment. Perhaps you can experiment with the payment version with and the donations with kde. 😉
    Just kidding. Don’t want to cross with the gnome people.


  15. Dave

    Another area that might work is to allow people to pay for customisations.

    Obviously custom designed software in the corporate arena is big business – but AFAIK there is no marketplace where people can pay small amounts for fairly simple customisations to stock open-source software.

    I wonder if there would be any interest in this sort of thing?

  16. Frank Karlitschek

    @Dave: Thats a good idea.

  17. dhaumann

    Additionally there could be a “Donate” button for those who want to support a project on a voluntary base.

  18. Frank Karlitschek

    @dhaumann this is already possible. everybody can put a donation button on the content page

  19. dotancohen

    I think that this is a great idea, however, I would prefer that the sales be made on a new site, not one of the established KDE domains. That would prevent confusion and bad feelings by users who did not expect to suddenly start paying at

  20. Kevin Kofler

    Please no!

    For one I don’t see why we should be paying for software. But more importantly, such a model prevents your software from being packaged in distributions, which is how software normally gets into the users’ hands in the Free Software world. Distributions are not and will never be setup to allow easy installation of third-party binaries. In addition, the moment you ban people from redistributing the version they bought at no charge (or at any charge the redistributor sets, without giving you a cut), your software stops being Free (as in speech) Software. The “premium version” idea also means the “premium version” is non-Free, and in fact I see this as a worrying trend. (We’re given intentionally crippled software by those projects.)

    @Aaron: Please don’t add support for buying stuff to GHNS2. Depending on the specifics, it is quite possible that distros will patch it out. We’ve had discussions in Fedora about that kind of stuff (in the context of GStreamer codecs) and the conclusion was that offering addons which cost money is not welcome (which is why Codeina is no longer installed by default in Fedora 10, it’s still being shipped in the repository though). One issue is that presenting paid stuff from one source and not others is unfairly advertising that source. (I don’t like Amarok’s support for paid media downloads either, but at least that supports several competing services, not just one.) Some other distributions are even patching out plugin installation from browsers because it installs proprietary software, so I don’t think those distributions will like the idea either, at least not if the licensing is such that the bought items cannot be redistributed.

  21. Thomas

    I’m afraid this is not a great thing without a lot more thought and work going into it.
    Now joe-random can package Amarok, maybe after adding an exploit and get money for the hard work that the real amarok people actually did.

    This is something that everyone can do, and distros actually do exactly that, the difference is that your site gives it a social thumbs up….


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