The Gitea Ltd sustainability smokescreen

When Gitea Ltd took over Gitea, they claimed the intention is to solve an alleged sustainability problem. The announcement says “…there are a few corporations […] building on Gitea for core products without even contributing back enhancements. This is of course within the scope of the license, however prevents others from the community from also benefiting.” and “Some companies are unable to contribute back to open source via sponsorship or code contribution. Many more cannot contract individuals due to internal policies.”

However, not only is this the first time sustainability has been mentioned as a problem in over five years of existence of the Gitea project, there also is not a single proof it exists. On the contrary, the Gitea project is one of the few sustainable Free Software projects I know. I analyzed it in depth back in 2021 when filling grant applications for its benefit. The existence of Gitea Ltd cannot be justified to solve a problem that does not exist in the first place.

The sustainability of Free Software projects in general is a difficult problem and I spend a considerable amount of time trying to find solutions, business models that are in line with my values. I’ve known for the longest time (in 2001 with SourceForge and Savannah) that software forges are one of the few Free Software that have no sustainability issue. They can be fully Free Software and pay large teams of full time developers to make a great product. That’s exactly what GitLab did at the beginning, back when it was not VC funded and not Open Core.

Gitea is no exception and I can testify to that because I’ve been paid for my work since I started working on it. I’ve done years of volunteer work in the recent past, willingly. But that was not necessary in this case. I do not know or heard of any developer who failed to be paid for their work on Gitea, should they have wanted to. Actually, Gitea is so easy to sustain that core maintainers had too much money in 2022 and left 50K€ on the table!

GitLab did not become Open Core to solve a sustainability problem that does not exist. It did it to maximize profit, as VC funding requires, and became crippleware over time. Gitea Ltd is following the same route for the same reasons and the shareholders merely try to hide their intent behind the smokescreen of Free Software sustainability. But anyone can see right through it.