Oped: Ton Roosendaal
Ton Roosendaal, chairman of the Blender Foundation, on how the software maintains its independent, decentralized community
The chairman of the Blender Foundation talks about Blender’s community focus
“EVERYTHING REVOLVES AROUND THE EXCITEMENT OF MAKING WHAT YOU LOVE… WHATEVER YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT, AND SHARE”
Every open source project establishes a relationship with its users and contributors – often called ‘the community.’ Community building is approached differently depending on the nature of the project. For example, a community of mostly end-users (Mozilla) and a community of software developers (Apache) require separate approaches.
For Blender the definition of ‘community’ is very wide. The most basic version can be found at blender.org where you’ll see a community of contributors. These comprise a mix of developers, authors, artists, and donors (both individual and corporate).
However, Blender has a larger definition of community too: anyone who uses Blender is considered part of Blender. This is because of Blender’s special nature as a magical 3D toolbox. Everything revolves around the excitement of making what you love, whether that’s art, design, films, animation, games or addons. It’s about making whatever you want to talk about, and share. Thanks to Blender’s open nature, the sharing part is easy – in fact, it’s a built-in feature. This is why the Blender community is so large and visible online.
Since its establishment in 2002, the Blender Foundation’s strategy has been to keep this community fully independent and decentralized. As a result, many websites have emerged around blender. org, each offering services or support to Blender users (this is why official Blender channels remain free from advertisements). Blender Foundation has also followed a strategy of withdrawing from areas where the community (or the market) steps in.
So Blender Foundation ceased book and manual publishing, stopped selling training and educational products, doesn’t have marketplaces for assets or Python addons, and will not participate in offering services or support for professionals.
Blender is more than a product or a community, though. It’s also a real platform offering an ecosystem. And to quote Tim Sweeney, the founder and CEO of Epic Games: “Something is only a platform when the majority of the profit is made by creators rather than the company that built the thing.”
And that’s what happened. Nowadays you’ll find independent training companies, artists selling work on asset markets, businesses building advanced Blender addons, and companies offering rigging services. There are even studios making films with Blender and large corporations adopting parts of Blender by assigning their engineers to it.
In the future, the Blender organisation intends to grow this ecosystem further by challenging the entertainment industry too. The goal is to realise high-end open animation film projects via the sharing/ subscription service Blender Cloud.