Everything should be free is the attitude a lot of people hold towards software. If you charge $9.99 for an application you spent months writing and will spend years maintaining you’ll probably receive at least some backlash for having the audacity to charge for it. But the universal principle of TANSTAAFL, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, >applies even to software.

The developers of Caddy, a web server that I’ve admittedly never used, wrote an explaining why they’re asking for money. As it turns out, in spite of what many people who don’t develop software believe, creating and providing open source software involves some notable expenses:

Today you will notice an addition to the Download page: a “Payment” section. Is Caddy no longer free software?

The truth is, it never was. There’s no such thing as free software. The question is, “Who pays the price?”

In the case of Caddy, it has been the developers. The obvious problem with this is that it’s not sustainable in our economy.


In less than a year, Caddy has well over 20,000 downloads — many of which aren’t counted as the project is cloned and built locally and deployed to both development and production environments. We’ve accrued over 4,500 stars on GitHub, processed hundreds of pull requests, and have dozens of participants in our chat rooms. I can’t speak for other Caddy developers because donations are private, but thanks to very generous donors last year, our web hosting is paid (for now) and I’ve received a little over $150 for my time.


Keep in mind that commercial offerings for similar web servers cost anywhere from $80 one-time to $1900/yr. (And none of them do what Caddy does.) My text editor costs $70, even just your domain name probably costs ~$12/yr. (If you support us well enough, we’ll send you swag!)

Too many people, typically those who don’t develop software, have the attitude that all software should be free (as in price, but the ambiguity of the term free is why I refer to software with unburdened source code as open source software instead of free software). The app economy is a perfect example of this. It’s why many developers have moved towards nickel and diming customers with in-app purchases or selling a subscription service. When they tried to charge reasonable fees for their software up front people bitched. And now people are bitching because software developers are relying on in-app purchases and subscription services.

Too many people have gotten it into their heads that software should be free (again, as in price). Don’t fall into that trap. Software development incurs a lot of expenses. Time, computers, electricity, and web hosting are just a handful of things needed for software development and none of them are free.

As I said, I haven’t used Caddy. But it does seem to be popular so I’m going to assume it’s a quality product. That being the case, I do hope enough users begin paying for it to keep the developers afloat. It’s always sad to see a good software product fall into obscurity because the developers weren’t being compensated and had to abandon the project for something that actually paid the bills.

One thought on “TANSTAAFL”

  1. Some people, huh? It turns out it isn’t just ‘some’, it’s most. Or if one is being utterly honest; all. And the complaining is not confined only to the individual, corporations get in on it too. There the problem really takes off for then teams of lawyers conspire to backroom deals which result in regulation intended to benefit the few. After all, isn’t that the core of complaining? More than a venting, complaining is a negotiation if even less artful.

    What product is not condemned for an exorbitant price?

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