! This post is also available in the following languages. Japanese, Chinese (Traditional)

LINE has started to donate to Prettier – why companies should support OSS

My name is Hanatani (@potato4d). I am a member of the Front-End Dev.9 team at the Front-end Development Center (commonly called UIT).

In this post, let me introduce the sponsorship activities of the front-end domain led by UIT.

Circumstances of OSS sponsoring related to the front-end domain of LINE

As of January 2022, LINE has been supporting the following OSS related to the front end.

Vue.js

  • Ongoing support since April 2021
  • $500-payment via the individual Patreon account of Evan You every month

Husky

  • Ongoing support since March 2021
  • $100-payment to the account of the development team via Open Collective every month

Bootstrap

  • Ongoing support since June 2021
  • $100 payment to the account of the development team via Open Collective every month

The organizational awareness of sponsoring OSS has increased and we have been supporting OSS since 2021. This month, we have decided to support Prettier.

Why we sponsor OSS

Some of you may be skeptical about for-profit companies sponsoring OSS, as most OSS is provided free of charge and non-profit, and can be cloned and modified if necessary. As a for-profit company, we may not find it reasonable to support non-profit OSS at a cost. However, behind the scenes, did you know that this situation can be a risk?

Much of the OSS in the Node.js ecosystem comes from individuals and volunteers, and is undoubtedly essential to us front-end engineers. Despite this, it is not always the case that these OSS are fully sustainable. Recently, there are many OSS such as Next.js and Hasura that are developed and operated by companies with an eye to monetization, but the overwhelming majority of OSS are not directly linked to revenue.

In the midst of all of this, there has been a lot of uncertainty in the Node.js ecosystem lately. Since the hijacking of UAParser.js last year, there have been a number of problems targeting packages, and even if they are not, there are an increasing number of cases where maintainers have stopped maintenance.

Under such circumstances, if a bug or vulnerability occurs that is difficult to fix except by the developers themselves, it can be a big risk. As a commercial enterprise that takes its responsibilities seriously, we cannot afford to overlook such risks. The lack of profitability of OSS has been supported by the service of individuals, but we must not turn a blind eye and provide adequate support.

Now that the distortions of the past have become apparent, we are entering an era in which there are sufficient reasons for companies to support OSS, even if they are judged only from the viewpoint of risk hedging, without considering sympathy and support for OSS culture.

Intent of the support for Prettier and in-house usage condition

The following blog post was the catalyst for our support.

The article was written by vjeux, who is one of the main maintenance personnel of Prettier. The article and the references say that currently Prettier is supported by only two maintenance personnel and $1,500 per month is rewarded for their work.

In addition, as for the UIT-related activities of LINE, we had Mr. Suzuki explain the current situation of Prettier at UIT INSIDE ep.37 “Learn Mechanism of Prettier through Contribution” and UIT INSIDE ep.100 “OSS Free Conversation,” we understood that the maintenance was unsustainable.

Prettier is an essential tool for modern front-end projects and a must for maintaining high front-end productivity both inside and outside the company. The discussion of the sustainability of OSS is a recent trend. We decided to support Prettier considering that continued maintenance of Prettier would be very important for front-end developers.

Usage condition of Prettier in LINE

Not only from the perspective of the whole industry, Prettier is popular in-house as well. In LINE, the shares of React and Vue are about the same size and there are various projects with a wide range of scales from a traditional JavaScript project to a modern TypeScript project. Of course, the library and infrastructure used in each project changes, but what does not change are Linter and formatter.

In our company, ESLint and Prettier are introduced regardless of the language and framework and it is strongly recommended to use Prettier in the in-house front-end development guideline.

In general, Prettier is a must for any of our projects. Therefore, we decided to support Prettier considering that Prettier becoming sustainable will be a great benefit for us.

Details of the support

We decided to donate $3,000. This is equivalent to the amount of one payment to the currently active maintenance personnel. The reason behind this is that although we had been providing mainly continuous support of $100, we determined that one-shot monetary support with a sizable sum of money to be important under the circumstances of this OSS.

We recognized that, unlike Vue.js and Bootstrap, Prettier is still affected significantly by the motivations of the few maintenance personnel and is hardly sustainable. Under such circumstances, the existence of a large-scale enterprise like us who provide support at the appropriate timing will have a great positive effect on the motivations of maintenance personnel and establishment of cases for other enterprises to take similar actions in the future.

This is the reason why we have decided to provide support of $3,000 in advance while considering continuous support.

Key points for recommending companies to support OSS

So far, we introduced the intent of sponsoring OSS and the case of LINE’s support for Prettier. Lastly, let me introduce the key points for companies with motivations to support OSS.

Clarify the motivation to support OSS

Even if the intention to support the OSS community as developers is the original purpose, a sufficient reason is required for organizational support. Therefore, it is recommended to consider the main purpose of support by the organization in advance. Usually, the reasonable reason for supporting OSS must be any of the following points, so an organization should consider which of the following points are the reasons to support the OSS community:

  • Minimize the risk of collapse of OSS;
    • If the library or framework the organization is currently using has no alternative,
    • Other reasons such as lack of security updates can also be a big risk;
  • Use the support to promote the company in recruitment;
    • If the in-house policy on establishing an impression related to a specific technology has been established,
    • When there are already cases of holding tech events, sharing knowledge through engineer blogs, and so on aiding OSS projects will further establish a positive reputation of investment towards that technology.
  • Cultivate a development culture in the organization;
    • When aiming to become a company or developer actively supporting OSS, support can naturally intensify interests in OSS and attract highly interested developers, which will contribute to the development of the organization

Investigate the support plan of OSS and its return in advance

When considering support for OSS, the procedure will be smooth if you investigate a list of plans and returns of such plans in advance.

For example, there are an abundance of plans to support Vue.js via Evan’s Patreon page as follows.

Various perks such as access to banners or PV are made available depending on the membership level, so if you put much value on branding, recruitment, and so on, the return will be an important factor in the decision of whether to sponsor OSS or not. To decide donation with sufficient reasons, it is recommended to research in advance.

Obtain qualitative metrics

Lastly, it is recommended to be sure to obtain qualitative metrics.

Though this recommendation is opposite to the quantitative indicators such as PV mentioned above for return, in reality, branding involves abstract elements, so you cannot measure it with quantitative indicators alone. Therefore, it will be desirable to determine whether the effect is sufficient mainly based on qualitative information such as the voices of developers inside and outside the organization.

With quantitative evaluation alone, you might overlook the hidden effect, and you might stop sponsoring. It is recommended to sufficiently explain the characteristics of OSS sponsorship and determine the effect mainly based on qualitative information.

Understand that the amount is not so large

Lastly, it is important to understand that a donation of about $100 is not so significant for the organization.

Of course, individuals may hesitate to donate $100 to multiple pieces of OSS every month, but there is a big gap between the budget of individuals and that of corporates.

It may be important to make suggestions without thinking too much assuming that they will succeed as long as there are sufficient reasons.

Conclusion

In this article, I introduced OSS sponsorship, which is rarely talked about in engineer blogs.

As an individual, I have been donating to Nuxt.js since 2017 while as an organization, we made a donation for the first time in the last March. Though we felt it a little costly at the time of the first donation, we have come to feel that support is not costly after the first donation came to fruition.

I hope more organizations will decide to support OSS after reading this article.