Open Source

Hi All

I am sure that there are plenty of discussions on the web about this, but I would like to hear from Blender users.

Why is there open source software? lets focus on Blender.

How does this happen, people spend a crap house full of time writing code and then give it away for free, what is the objective?

Is it because they are not sure if it will sell commercially and they want to get their software out there or are there some other reasons?

Once it takes off why is it then not commercialized in order for the product to grow, money in means people to work and people working makes software better.

I stand confused and hopefully will find some direction or rebuke?


I am pretty sure that in Blender’s case it was because the company became bankrupt, and Ton Roosendaal, who had put so much effort into Blender at the time, wanted the code which would otherwise be hidden away and become useless, become useful again by open-sourcing it. No one would benefit from Blender staying closed source and being filed away.

Other examples involve:

  • Wanting to make something so big that you know you won’t be able to do on your own.
  • Having made something that was tedious to figure out, and you want to save the rest of the world the bother.
  • Wanting to push an industry standard.
  • Being disillusioned with the programming industry because a lot of the project you work on never see the light of day due to the mysteries of company management.
  • Being disillusioned with the programming industry because you see how the end user is disrespected in terms of security or usability because of the mysteries of company management.
  • General altruism. Because people are capable of this.

In Blender’s specific case, the community stumped up the cash to keep Blender in circulation after its parent company went bankrupt. Since it was the community bought it, it was moved to an open source licence.

This kind of assumes that going commercial means success. But it doesn’t, especially where Blender’s concerned. 3D software is stupidly competetive - look at how Autodesk have been snapping up their competition. It would be dumb to try to go head to head with the big boys on their turf - chances are you either go bankrupt if your software can’t compete, if it is good enough you’re likely to get bought out and possibly even discontinued (Softimage)… so why not try a different approach?

Blender is community software. The code contributed to Blender since it went open was contributed with the understanding that said code would remain available under the GPL. The Foundation doesn’t even technically own all the code that’s in Blender, so they couldn’t take it back to being commercial software without getting an OK from each and every one of the people who contributed code over the years.

One of the advantages to an open codebase is that anyone can come along with a patch that adds a feature or fixes a bug. With proprietary software, any bug would have to be reported in a system, triaged by someone (hopefully correctly), sent to the appropriate development team (after one or two tries), ignored for weeks then maybe that bug would get fixed for the next annual release if accounting decides it’ll maintain the software’s value. Open source’s attitude is different - more like “we don’t have the resources to fix everything so if you can pitch in with a bug fix, please do!” - because it’s community software.

If you count automatic builds, Blender does multiple releases with bugfixes and new features per week. And there’s stable versions multiple times a year. Features in development live in branches. Because the code is downloadable and buildable, end users can get their mitts on cool new features that are still in development - maybe they’re not ready for production, but they’re at least there to bounce on and check the potential of.

In terms of money, the foundation behind Blender has a development fund which brings in enough resources to pay a handful of key developers for their time. There’s also an institute which is responsible for keeping the lights on - that’s funded by merch and cloud subscriptions among other things. True, a lot of people contributing code don’t get paid to do it, but (again) it’s community software. The Foundation is a non-profit organisation - instead of digging wells in Africa with their donations like charities, they produce software that lets Africans teach one another how not to get cholera without having to use cracked software.

Commercial software is still out there of course and happy to take your money - if you feel you need that extra feature candy, you can always put down your hard earnt cash for it. Blender and the many things people have made with it over the years all stand testament to what you can achieve with open tech.

For me, (FOSS) Free and Open Source Software, is important for a few reasons.

Most importantly, to me, is that in the future, global human society will share a large, open source code base to support all sorts of needs and problem solving and will be available for students, designers and researchers to combine in unique and new ways.

You can also see the code, and so can others, so the community can review it to make sure there is nothing malicious inside, like stealing design ideas or embedded spyware that sells private data on your machine to marketers, etc… That will be very important, more important than it is now, in the future.

It can’t be cancelled. You can always fork Blender, a new group could maintain it’s own version side by side the current version. The work, from the community, that goes into learning and developing Blender, will for that reason, be ensured to live a longer life. Work towards learning, or developing for, closed source software, can be cancelled and rendered nearly useless, by a company director who’s focus is on shareholder profit. If you had, for example, developed a great workflow and set of scripts/plug-ins for Softimage, you’d be out of luck as it’s officially a dead software, that will never see a new updated release, and it’s last version will age badly over the coming years, making those past efforts and years of community development, dead and gone.

What if you knew how to code and really wanted to make a great piece of 3D software for a browser or for a tablet/phone. Blender’s code repository is there to use and be adapted and re-compiled for any purpose, so long as you follow it’s license. You could even include a part or all of it’s code, in a larger FOSS project. For example, you could make a virtual reality world, and include inside of that world, a full 3D Development program.With commercial software, you couldn’t legally do this, without special deals and or crazy fees. It creates for some interesting possibilities that would not be otherwise likely or viable.

The code is open, so if you have the skills, you can just go right inside and fix/change anything you want or don’t like. You could also hire your own programmer to do this for you. I think that the “traditional industry” will eventually come to love this in the future as they continually pay a small fortune in software licensing fees and support services and still have to hire an in house team of on-sight programmers to customize their development pipeline, via all sorts of scripts, plug-ins and custom software that bridges two or more pieces of commercial software together. The nice thing about Blender/FOSS, is that if you make add-ons, you are free to keep them private, you are free to give them away, and you are free to sell them.

It’s free, as in free beer. There are times when you are broke (a high school student just starting an interest in 3D), or your school/organization can’t initially afford to invest in commercial software. Imagine a science/mathematics/engineering researcher that needs to visualize some calculation or simulation, and they really need to dedicate their entire budget to more pressing issues, Blender is always there for them, along with a great community to help them solve complicated problems.

Those are just some benefits. But the principal, I think is the greatest benefit. Think of what library systems did for societies, both before the revolution of the printing press and after, as well as before the revolution of the internet. The free, dissemination and sharing of information (including computer code) can be and is, as revolutionary as libraries once were.

That said, programmers need to eat. So if you see one, give him a bagel, he’s probably hungry… No just kidding, if you use the software and you have the funds, please donate if you can, it’s a gift to the world.

all the best stuff out there is open source:

open subd

not to mention the softwares:

libre office

Blender has been FOSS for well over a decade, so why hasn’t this happened already? What you call “small fortunes” are maybe 10% on top of the salary of an employee, unless we’re talking about third-world countries. For that “fortune”, you get industry-proven software developed by a team of properly paid industry professionals. You also don’t need an entire team of programmers for your studio pipeline. That’s what TDs/Technical Artists are for, they don’t have to be hardcore C/C++ programmers with PhDs.

You vastly underestimate how expensive and demanding this sort of software development is (as opposed to cobbling together a couple of pipeline scripts).

The nice thing about Blender/FOSS, is that if you make add-ons, you are free to keep them private, you are free to give them away, and you are free to sell them.

It’s not actually that nice. With Blender’s GPL, you are forced to either keep it private/in-house or give everyone the right to redistribute for free. Why would a studio give away their hard work to their competitors? And if they keep it in-house, then nobody else benefits. It’s a classic free-rider problem.

If you want some insight into the economics of open-source software, read this article. Spoiler: None of this applies to Blender, which is why Blender will not be able to rise above any of the major commercial packages. The donations for the Blender development fund are a total joke, compared to the size of the user base. For that money you could hire maybe a single Autodesk engineer.

I guess some just don’t care to read, what’s been written. Or never contemplate on life as such. It wasn’t always like that. In western residue of roman empire you had to be thought latin to know certain/basic things. And closed communities have always created lots of bad things followed by rise-ups & wars, greed of idiocracy. The Revolution of equality is for such reason. We are all free riders of life & karma. Or did you choose to be born?

Give to author as much as you value one, but water, land & paths have been her before man… we’re all made of cc 70% h2o. It’s a right of everyone so is knowledge, mind. It’s purpose is to grow, evolve & share. To cycle. Decide for yourself what to do with it. This is not dictatorship of smart nor stupid. Help or don’t… to quarrel is to start war and to judge is arrogant. Patent is protection of lazy & weak.
Such is everything & all.

To me & i assume to many more… BF, specifically Ton has proven the power of freedom, mind & evolution… there’s no piracy nor prosecution. There’s creativity & fury.

Glad… to be continued.

First, I agree with all of your points in general, and don’t want to get drawn into a long debate, so please appreciate both of those considerations. Thank you.

Why it hasn’t happened already. I’d say a few reasons. Blender, for over a decade, wasn’t considered a finalized/production ready/professional package, that could compete head on, with top commercial software. In some regards, it still is not quite ready. But… Young/new CG artists are gravitating towards it, that means there is and will grow, a large talent pool that wants to use Blender, and possibly insists on using it. Before, artists who wanted to break into CG, often went to schools and learned Maya/Max/Soft, etc., or they found a way to learn these softwares on their own, aka. the entire talent pool was/is using the commercial stuff.

As Blender refines and becomes more viable for the task itself (large collaborative studio work), don’t underestimate the power of studio’s wanting to save money. I’m not saying it’s going to start happening just today or even next week, but I suspect it will gradually begin, at some point, in the future. We are talking about an industry, that willingly outsources itself to the lowest bidder for local tax incentives. That is why Pixar opened a studio in Vancouver (because they got a massive tax break there) and then a few years later closed it, and then opened a new studio in India instead (even cheaper). Also consider all of the game, as well as animation studios, that permanently closed their doors over the last 5 years. It was a big number, and it included big names too.

And now just some random thoughts that popped into my head as I read your post.

  1. Large studios do actually hire more than just TD artists, and do often hire full fledged programmers. (Think Pixar’s Renderman)
  2. Large studios do on occasion give away what they worked and spent hard to create, especially when they see an advantage to doing so, like outside developers integrating the system, etc. (think Sony’s Alembic, Disney/Pixar’s Ptex, and Nvidia’s Apex)
  3. CEO’s get massive bonuses when they save or create lots of money for their share-holders/investors, and do so successfully. However if they create a technical cluster fuck, they would be fired and likely never hired again. So considering taking on Blender, would be a slow/gradual thing, starting very small, in isolated cases and when there is little risk to take on by allowing it/testing the waters.

Final note. You might be 100% correct. Perhaps I am completely underestimating/overestimating what has the potential to happen in the future. I didn’t want, in my first post, to sound like I was stating (that this is what will happen). I was just suggesting in passing, while mentioning paid add-ons for Blender, that studios may grow a a larger interest for open source.

Please feel free to agree/disagree and respond on any point, but understand, that yesterday, I took the day off and decided to play on the forums in between video game sessions, and didn’t plan on getting myself caught up in large discussion. Thank you for understanding and great points you made in your post, I mean that wholeheartedly.

Why it hasn’t happened already. I’d say a few reasons. Blender, for over a decade, wasn’t considered a finalized/production ready/professional package, that could compete head on, with top commercial software. In some regards, it still is not quite ready. But… Young/new CG artists are gravitating towards it, that means there is and will grow, a large talent pool that wants to use Blender, and possibly insists on using it.

This is really the gist of what I was asking in the opening post. Surely with (lets say income for lack of a better word) this software would have been a lot further down the road than where it is now with a lot more people wanting to use it professionally?

Maybe not, this is just pure speculation.


Not necessarily.

I (and many others) gravitate towards open software not because it is free, but because we can help shape it and never fear that the company behind it will take it away from us like it has happened with so many other apps. (ie. XSI r.i.p).

Open source does not mean there are no drive behind the project. Look at Android, PHP, linux etc. Lots of money and paid devs.
The whole internet runs on open source technologies. Blender may just be the first to tap into this segment for CGI.

Instead of a 1000 companies paying 1000$ each year for a company to use the program, imagine a 1000 companies paying a 1000 developers to make one piece of Open/Free technology the best there is.

That would make blender go further down the road than any other.
And when you look at this site, it might be where blender is headed. Slow and steady.

Probably only about 5% of Blender’s userbase make regular donations to the BF. The rest are the whiny ones who have huge sense of entitlement. Software development cost is no joke.

Lets just say that with open-source software the goal is to make a reliable product, not to sell the most copies. If you’re an animation studio it would make much more sense to spend money on a few developers to fix the exact things you need instead of paying for licenses and hoping that the software company (for ex: Autodesk) has decided to do it for you. The source is open, so it’s free for anyone with programming skills to work on.

Those 5% are people and/or companies that have a vested interest in blender, for their business or otherwise. The average newbie may swoon at shiny new features but they see them as toys rather than something useful.

If you have developers you can just as well have them modify 3ds Max or Maya. Autodesk, and I assume other commercial 3D software, comes with SDKs, python access and other traditional or visual scripting languages which gives you the full range to modify the programs. This is nothing unique to open source software.

@Lumpengnom, SDK’s typically only get you so far, you can’t improve the core application (improve features, optimizations, fix bugs…).
SDK’s for closed software allows you to extend the application in pre-defined ways (whatever the API’s allow).

In practice (I guess) this is totally fine in most situations - the companies who make the SDK’s expose enough for common usage.
But for the devs who use those SDK’s - when you want expose more of the application, you hit a hard limit where its just not possible.

Open source is a lot like communism. When communism was first invented people had hopes that it would actually work, but the problem was (and still is) people. Same with open source development, the problem is developers who are people with their flaws. Just that the project is open source actually does nothing. Developers are the people who make it happen, or in most cases don’t make it happen. I believe that many open source projects suffer from linux background, even I have nothing against linux. UI is esoteric, there are common features missing, etc. and in some cases small things matter a lot. I’ve never seen a open source program (for normal desktop users) that would totally win commercial competition, for who knows what reason.

It was always just a few or even only one (genius/scientist/developer/artist/philosopher - far less than 0’5%) that drastically changed the world we live in and showed how to be… great.
Only open source gives one absolute power to evolve & share as one chooses. With money or without… it is us, striving for life, knowledge & ethics.
Noticed that mostly used software in scientific institutions is open sourced… :slight_smile:

Within such a community i feel alive… have fun.

Communism (if you read the book should know), it is not enforced but evolved within developed society. We had not yet have the chance to see it. It is a choice.

“In practice”, pretty much the entire industry runs either on custom-built tools or closed-source applications like with “good enough” SDKs. For some things you can get private source code access, too. Most application developers have to deal with some amount of closed-source APIs anyway, unless it’s all Linux-based stuff - but then again who ever hacks stuff like the Linux kernel, Qt or GTK? You don’t really want to do that.

Having your project be open-source is always a too-good excuse for having a bad or non-existing API. When given the choice between a so-so API and having to maintain a custom branch, I will always prefer the API. Shipping custom builds to clients is often unacceptable, anyway. As for the “hard limits”: It’s all about the data. If I can get the data out and back in, I can always create my own window and do everything myself, which is usually still better than dealing with some foreign codebase.

I’m pretty sure the reason is the economics behind it. End users don’t really pay for FOSS software, so if there’s no big company backing it, it cannot become competitive. Almost all successful FOSS projects are either tools that developers themselves need (and thus they will be improved along the way) or backed by major corporate sponsorship (because it serves their interest somehow).

I doubt that is true, but I don’t have statistics on that. I’m pretty sure software like Matlab is preferred over their FOSS counterparts, for instance. Many universities aren’t all that open when it comes to sharing their code.

I agree that programmers giving away code for free might seem naive and fishy, but this is only what it seems like to the untrained eye.
Well done sir, your powers of perception have begun to glimpse beyond what, to ordinary people, might seem like a mere expression of selflessness. But you do know that the world is never like that. Don’t you? Don’t we?

Let me lay down the grand plan open source programmers have and be enlightened.

The open source movement started in 1924 when an underground cult of physics scientists calculated with breathtaking precision of 2.54 * 10 ^ (-47) that the universe would end. The complex equations showed that only by uniting human consciousness on a global level would they be able to avert the coming disaster. By using the gathered human concentration on a common core of human knowledge as a nucleus, they intended to cause the emergence of a being known as Cognis Nova. Those beings were the only hope against Morbis Fatalis, the beings who cause black holes to emerge and swallow the universe slowly until its thermal death.

Finally after almost a full century of progress, open source allows human minds to concentrate on a common piece of human knowledge. Oh the joy! Morbis Fatalis will finallly be defeated <insert self satisfied laughter>. But that is only the beginning of the crusade. With Cognis Nova, universe, nay, multiverse domination is finally in the hands of the select few who control it.

And now it’s time for a nice Saturday stroll since my science fiction powers seem to fade out.

I do hope you’ve learned something from all this.

^ legit!!!

Cthulu is real and it’s calling us ?