I have started, led and maintained many projects over several decades, out of which the most known one is probably the cURL project I founded and have been leading since 1998. I have contributed to and participated in many more projects and I have of course used and kept myself up-to-date with a large number of projects in which I did not personally participate.

I first learned to program on the Commodore 64 as a teenager in 1985 and after some years I transitioned over to C programming, first on Amiga and then on Unix systems. I released my first source code to the public in the early 1990s – years before the term Open Source was first coined. I have since then spent many hours every week throughout my entire life contributing to Open Source projects, my own and others'. I have worked exclusively with Open Source professionally since 2014 for Mozilla and since 2019 for wolfSSL.

Because of my background and life with Open Source and probably a lot because of the relative success some of my projects have had, I frequently get questions about subjects related to maintaining Open Source. How to run a project and what makes them succeed? For a long time I have been collecting lessons from my life with Open Source into a list of advice for fellow Open Source library hackers. This document is my attempt to convert those thoughts and experiences into words.

This document is written with you as the intended reader. You are someone who is interested in Open Source and keen to get started or maybe you already are a maintainer and want to get further insights in how other maintainers go about doing Open Source. You might do Open Source in your spare time or work on it full-time as a paid employee.

I am not suggesting that everything I write in there will be a match for you or a good idea for everyone. One of the best features with Open Source is that there is always more than one way to do things and that everyone is always free to go their own way should they decide to. I give you my take and my advice. You are free to decide what to do with it.

I suppose this is another one of those things we all end up doing: Write a printf() implementation, create an IRC bot, and author a book about Open Source.

/ Daniel Stenberg, April 2022

Last updated