With millions of users and over 100 million downloads per month, Babel, a famous open source project, said he was running out of money to maintain it

Time:2021-11-22

Babel, the famous JavaScript compiler, has no money, and the creator thinks that the maintainer is “fishing with high salary“.

Recently, a statement by Babel, a JavaScript compiler, has become the focus of discussion in the open source community. Babel’s maintenance team, which has millions of users and is used by large companies such as Facebook, airbnb and Netflix, announced on its official blog that we “have no money”.

With millions of users and over 100 million downloads per month, Babel, a famous open source project, said he was running out of money to maintain it

Blog address:https://babeljs.io/blog/2021/…

With “we have no money, we need to donate” as the core idea, the whole blog is divided into five parts, which are summarized as follows:

  • At first, we paid Henry Zhu a full-time salary of US $11000 / month. In addition, we paid three part-time developers J ù NLI à ng, nicol242and Kai a salary of US $2000 / month at first;
  • Babel has developed rapidly, with many users worldwide, and the monthly download volume has exceeded 117 million times;
  • However, Babel’s financial situation is worrying and it is difficult to pay full-time salary. Kai, one of the team members, had to resign to find another job;
  • In the future, we hope to get a certain amount of sponsorship funds to continue to improve Babel’s user experience;
  • In order to maintain Babel’s good operation, we need at least $333000 per year (twice the current annual income). I hope you can provide financial support.

It is mentioned in the blog that the salary of nicol242;, Henry and J ù NLI à ng is temporarily $6000 per month. Although everyone’s salary is not high, it seems that Babel’s fund balance is only enough to maintain until the end of 2021.

With millions of users and over 100 million downloads per month, Babel, a famous open source project, said he was running out of money to maintain it

Babel project started in 2014. In terms of its main functions, it can help users compile code in the latest version of JavaScript. When the environment supported by users cannot support some features, these features will be compiled into supported versions.

Because the project is open source, anyone can use, download and modify it for free. As a community driven project, many companies and projects use Babel and are maintained by volunteer teams.

GitHub project address:https://github.com/babel/babel

Babel has implemented support for many new ECMAScript proposals, followed up each newly released version of typescript and flow, and designed new features to generate smaller compiled output. In addition, Babel has been integrated into various frameworks in the JavaScript ecosystem, such as react, next.js, Vue, ember and angular. Babel supports custom plug-ins and optimizations in various scenarios, such as CSS in JS, graphql, or localization across a large number of code bases.

In the blog, the team also mentioned the upcoming version of Babel 8. However, many people use Babel, a low-level tool, but they don’t really understand it, let alone sponsor project funds.

Full time maintenance doesn’t work?

It can be seen from Babel’s official website that there are currently six core maintainers of the project, including Brian ng, Henry Zhu, etc. this small team has undertaken Babel’s maintenance work.

With millions of users and over 100 million downloads per month, Babel, a famous open source project, said he was running out of money to maintain it

Why is there a depletion of funds? This will start in 2018, when Babel team conducted an experiment: maintain the project full-time and pay the corresponding salary to the maintenance members.

Henry Zhu resigned from adobe and started a full-time job in Babel. By November 2019, Babel had successfully paid Henry Zhu’s salary for more than one year (US $11000 per month) and began to pay salaries to three other part-time members, namely J ù NLI à ng, Kai and nicol242, initially US $2000 per month. Moreover, Babel also hopes to increase the budget in the later stage and turn three part-time members into full-time members.

Several years later, Babel team found that “the road of full-time maintenance does not seem to work”, and realized that some adjustments need to be made after fully considering the current donations received. At present, although Babel team still pays salaries to Henry Zhu, J ù NLI à ng and Nicol ò, it says in its blog that “there is almost no money to pay defenders” and seeks support.

In fact, from the beginning, Babel team knew that there was not enough salary to pay full-time maintenance members. Therefore, member Henry Zhu spent a lot of time actively seeking continuous funding, such as making conference speeches or lobbying for company sponsorship. However, in 2020, the financing of Babel team was greatly affected and lost some big sponsors. Member Kai also had to give up maintenance work and find another full-time job. After that, Babel hoped to receive more donations to pay more salaries to J ù NLI à ng and nicol242, but this wish also failed.

With millions of users and over 100 million downloads per month, Babel, a famous open source project, said he was running out of money to maintain it

Babel’s team wrote:

We firmly believe that open source work should be a viable and sustainable career path. But now, we have to face a cruel fact: there will be no money in a few months.

In addition, the Babel team is also seeking sponsorship from some companies. Nicol242;added:

Many companies rely on our software, so it is in their interest to ensure that the Babel project is maintained and maintained forever.

Creator: someone took money and didn’t work

Once released, this statement quickly aroused heated discussion in the community. Nicol Lin said that as of Wednesday local time, the team had received more than $40000 in donations.

But Babel founder Sebastian McKenzie’s tweet triggered a wave of more heated discussion.

Sebastian McKenzie is now the head of Rome, another company, and is no longer engaged in the maintenance of the project. He sent a message that Henry Zhu, the core team member of twitter connotation, took his place and did not seek his business:

The reason why there is no money is that someone gets an annual salary of $130000 and is not actually engaged in project work.
With millions of users and over 100 million downloads per month, Babel, a famous open source project, said he was running out of money to maintain it

But Sebastian McKenzie then deleted the tweet and apologized for the impact.

With millions of users and over 100 million downloads per month, Babel, a famous open source project, said he was running out of money to maintain it

I shouldn’t mention Henry in public, but in private. Because I was too depressed, I posted that tweet and the expression was too rough. These are bad behaviors.

Is it reasonable to blame someone for the shortage of project funds? In the face of McKenzie’s accusation against Henry Zhu, independent developers including Vue founder Evan you came forward to support him.

With millions of users and over 100 million downloads per month, Babel, a famous open source project, said he was running out of money to maintain it

Maintaining a project means not only pushing commit, but also managing the team, seeking funding sources, and bearing mental pressure. “

With millions of users and over 100 million downloads per month, Babel, a famous open source project, said he was running out of money to maintain it

A creator who completely handed over the maintenance work should obviously not blame the project members so much. “If Henry Zhu didn’t take over Babel at that time, the project might have disappeared.”

Nicholas C. zakas, creator of JavaScript code checking tool eslint, said that although Henry Zhu was not the creator of Babel, he was also a witness of Babel’s journey and gave up the opportunity to get more compensation in the industry. “We can’t ask defenders to always get the same or even less salary as college graduates.”

With millions of users and over 100 million downloads per month, Babel, a famous open source project, said he was running out of money to maintain it

At the same time, Nicholas C. zakas also admitted that the operation of open source projects is not easy: “in eslint, the salary we have always provided for defenders is relatively conservative, because we don’t have much money to pay for labor services. Sponsors often disappear suddenly, and we don’t want anyone to lose their jobs.”

Some developers believe that Henry Zhu’s maintenance work has always been excellent, and accuse him of being a barbaric act.

With millions of users and over 100 million downloads per month, Babel, a famous open source project, said he was running out of money to maintain it

The question is, will you donate the money or not?

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