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Sustainable Open Source: Why We're Relicensing Directus

By Benjamin Haynes on April 26, 2023

By co-founders Ben Haynes (CEO) and Rijk van Zanten (CTO)

We started Directus as an open-source project more than a decade ago. Since then, we have strived to be as transparent as possible, with our amazing community supporting us over all these years. That’s why we’ve stayed vocal about the complexity of growing a sustainable open-source organization.

We have always been, and will continue to be, avid supporters of the open-source movement — it is deeply engrained in the ethos of this company. But as Rijk shared last month, the revenue we’re getting from GitHub Sponsors (our primary OSS funding source) is only about 1% of what it costs to actually maintain the repo at its current scale. This means we’ve been forced to focus on generating revenue from things other than the core codebase to ensure the project can be sustained.

As a result of thorough research and numerous conversations with our peers and community, we are implementing the first ever change to our license model. Our primary goal here is to have the core platform generate enough revenue to support its own stability and growth… while holding true to our beliefs regarding community and open-source.

Shifting to the BSL

Today Directus is adopting BSL 1.1 — with extremely permissive additional usage grants added to keep the platform open and available. For nearly all of our community, today’s announcement won’t change a thing, but licenses can be intimidating, so let’s highlight the key points below:

  • All Directus source code will still be open and available on GitHub
  • Non-production use of Directus is still completely free for everyone
  • Production use of Directus is still completely free for nearly all users
    • Everyone can still use the entire Directus platform for free… unless you (your legal entity) exceed $5,000,000 USD in “total finances” per year
  • Code released under this new license converts to GPLv3 (OSS) after 3 years

To be clear, that means the source code stays exactly where it is now — public on GitHub — so you can still pull the latest releases, fork the project, and submit pull-requests. We’re even going to merge all of our proprietary cloud-exclusive extensions into the core project.

The main change to be aware of is that if you (or your company/org) make over $5 million USD in “total finances” per year, you will need to talk to us about obtaining a paid commercial license for your production projects (again, non-production is always free).

This small but crucial change will ensure that the large corporations and governments that are using Directus in production also financially contribute back to the project. That revenue will be reinvested into the salaries of our full-time maintainers so they can stay focused on the improving core platform instead of being distracted by commercial exclusives.

The BSL approach has been successfully used by many other open source projects before us (e.g. MariaDB, Sentry, Cockroach Labs, and Couchbase) and has been endorsed by the Open Source Initiative’s founder Bruce Perens.

Please check out our FAQ to learn more about the change… and please do not hesitate to reach out with additional questions or thoughts.

As always, thank you for your support!

Ben & Rijk

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