The Core is Free

The core of the decentralized repository operates for free or at a minimal cost compared to current systems. This is based on the approach of voluntary participation and the general incentives that come from contributing. For instance, hosting a blockchain node creates incentives in the form of cryptocurrencies, while sharing data on p2p networks allows users access other data faster and more resiliently. In addition, hosting artifacts on centralized infrastructure like a project’s website only calls for a limited amount of resources using today’s hosting services.

On the other hand, sizable centralized software repositories often require the usage of paid cloud services, server hosting, or dedicated hardware. This creates high costs for the operator of a given repository which they have to cover either by asking for donations, much like Wikipedia does, or by selling services and products complementing the repository.

Work Costs Money

The expanded repository’s ecosystem elements however are dependent on participants to invest computing power and their work. Both are not free on the open market, and not everybody wants to commit too much energy without compensation, not even for a good cause. On top of that, money and other means of payment are great ways to attract attention.

However, the question is where these incentives should come from. Currently, the open source community, apart from volunteers, is mainly sponsored by (tech) companies and even governments as of late in an effort to secure the software supply chain. Tech companies and others rely heavily on free, open-source software and thus are interested in its maintenance and continued development. Consequently, they either support projects via donations or allow their employees to contribute. Multiple other constellations are also possible. Another possibility is creating paid services around a given open-source project. MySQL and MongoDB are examples of this approach.

It is currently a hot topic that companies use free, open-source software extensively but do not contribute to these projects.1 The efforts made in the expanded repository ecosystem might help the discussion if incentives are eventually distributed to the developers.

Top-Down Approach

Our general belief is that top-level projects and applications should support their dependencies. A business application using open-source software should help maintain, secure, and develop the given projects.

Furthermore, we believe Witnessable Apps, which require continuous review and verification throughout their life cycle, will become ever more important. This means that projects and businesses that want to adhere to this principle must verify their software and their dependencies.

The Build Verification Network and the Review Network offer exactly the infrastructure and services needed to prove and publish the validity and security of a given software. They consider transitive dependencies and verify a software package as a whole. Funding to verify a top-level application is automatically and partially distributed to its dependencies. As a result, underfunded, essential projects receive more attention to emphasize the security of core projects within the community.

A company that offers its users a critical application, for example, an online banking app or a data storage service, has to create ’trust’ in said application. As we shift into a zero-trust or trustless world, this can only be achieved through public verification. One way to accomplish this is to publish a witnessable app within the dRepo. Consequently, these companies have to invest in the security of their software. The verification in the dRepo’s expanded ecosystem does not come for free, as large amounts of work have to be done by participants. Thus, they must contribute incentives to the networks for workers to verify their published applications from top to bottom.

Incentives Distribution

Incentives Distribution: All of an application's dependencies must be reviewed and verified for the top-level application to be verified as well. The application owner must invest in this process. Incentives get distributed to all dependencies for their verification. The effects are multiplied if numerous top-level applications use the same dependencies.

As ransomware and phishing attacks become prevalent in mainstream media, consumers, companies, and governments become more aware of security issues. As a result, consumers demand secure applications, while companies and governments become more willing to invest in security. SLSA and other initiatives are evidence of that.

The rising public security awareness will force a shift in society towards more openness, as it is given through witnessable apps. Not issuing public, trustless verification will become a sign of potentially malicious behavior and generally deny their users self-governance. Furthermore, new architectures and user experience patterns will evolve from witnessable apps which closed systems cannot comply with.

  1. See here ↩︎

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