When you think about open source software you probably think about some applications made by some students in their free time. Because open source, there is no money in that, right?
Some larger open source systems like the Mozilla Foundation clearly show that the system can work on a commercial scale as well. Mozilla is an open source browser; everyone can use the source code to make his own browser. And nevertheless the software is free and everyone can get their hands on the code, in 2010, it earned a revenue of $123.2 million. It might be surprising that most of this revenue is provided by Google which by the way also owns a browser called Chrome. The answer is simple, not only is their Chrome browser partly based on Firefox , in return for the money, the Google search engine is included in Firefox, not unimportant for a browser which has quite a market share. Several Linux distributions, based on the open source Linux-kernel, use a different system where instead of selling their software they sell the support, training, and integration services that helps customers in using the open-source software.
But it’s not all commercial. Some open-source software projects have no business model behind it. It just exists through a large community of contributors to the project. And it might be questionable what drives them because at first sight those contributors get nothing in return. The answer is simple, they will meet a lot of great like minded people who may end up connecting them with interesting paying work and of course, giving something back to the open source gives them also that mushy good feeling.