Think of the tools you use as a developer on a daily basis: your programming language and associated SDK, your IDE, libraries, build tools, CI server, etc. You’ll probably realize most, if not all, are free. I probably don’t have to spend too many words to convince you that being free is an incredibly important quality for a developer tool, to make it accessible to everyone. We want Sandbox to be accessible to all developers, and that’s the primary reason why Sandbox is and always will be free.
A startup’s perspective on free
Let me spend some time talking about why making Sandbox free makes sense for us as an early-stage startup. If you have worked on a startup, the following may strike you to be more true than it would to others: if you build something and put it out there, generally, no one will do anything at all. It’s of course up to you to go around and tell everyone about what you’ve built, and why it will help them. And if you get your message just right, and to the right folks, you may just convince a few to take a look at what you’ve built. If you then tell them you’re going to charge them for it, it’s a big gamble as a startup. You may have just turned away any potential users. For a startup, if you have no users, you have nothing.
Guaranteed to remain free
When you are bootstrapping a startup, you see money leaving, and none coming in, and it’s a disconcerting feeling. If you are giving away your product for free, like we are, that realization that revenue is far, far away is all the more real. I’m not going to lie: revenue is critical for any company, and especially a startup. But we’re not going to make revenue by charging for Sandbox.
Let me talk about how and why we can guarantee that. I’ve already said that we realize one of the most important qualities for a great developer tool today is that it’s free, so that it’s accessible to all. And we want Sandbox to be a a great developer tool for all. Our long-term plans are to build additional products and services on top of Sandbox. And we hope to drive revenue from those offerings.
While Sandbox is not open-source, we want to be clear that it is free for you to use, make copies, and distribute copies. We also provide a documented mechanism for you to host your own mirrors of the Sandbox binaries, and have Sandbox use them. If for some reason you cannot use StackFoundation servers now or in the future for getting Sandbox, be assured that you can use your own mirrors, including file-system based mirrors.
Why not open source it?
Finally, let me also spend some time to address a common question we get – why don’t we just open source Sandbox? There are several reasons for this – but the primary reason is that for us, open source means a trade-off between getting community contributions, and spending effort on open source governance. Governance is especially important for Sandbox because we give people the option to commit Sandbox binaries to their Git repositories. Without proper governance, we would be concerned about the security of doing so – code sneaked into open source projects is a real concern.
Of course, what we have been able to achieve so far with Sandbox is only possible due to open source projects: Sandbox uses huge portions of code from Kubernetes and Moby, and portions from many other projects. And we want to give back. That’s why our workflow designer is open source. And that’s why we do plan to open source additional components in the future.
So keep an eye out! Follow our open source repositories at our the StackFoundation GitHub page. And if Sandbox doesn’t quite solve your problem right now, watch our public issue tracker and changelog for updates!