In a show of open-source solidarity, the trustless Bitcoin payment processor BTCPay Server is launching a crowdfunding campaign for the privacy-preserving Tor browser, a fundraise which, its benefactor hopes, will demonstrate the impact of bitcoin-based fundraising and the community’s support for open-source initiatives.
BTCPay Server began as a project to offer people a self-hosted, feeless alternative to popular crypto payment processors like BitPay. Its creator, Nicolas Dorier, coded the payment portal from scratch in 2017 with the expressed purpose of obsolescing its predecessor.
At the very least, this openly accessible alternative strips BitPay of all its centralized trimmings and gives users complete control over their own commerce. BTCPay Server’s framework, which has internal accounting, is especially helpful for fundraisers, as we saw with the fundraising campaign for Hodlonaut’s legal fees (if this isn’t registering, please refer to this important saga which saw infamous, self-proclaimed Satoshi Craig S. Wright, attempt to sue an anonymous, cosmonaut tomcat).
Crowdfunding Tor in Solidarity
Taking cues from this success, BTCPay Server is launching a crowdfund for the open-source Tor Project. The gesture, from one open-source comrade to another, comes from a place of both support and empathy.
“As a free and open-source project, we ‘experienced on our skin’ how challenging the sustainability of such projects can be,” BTCPay Server Contributor Pavlenex told Bitcoin Magazine. “BTCPay supports and cares about people who work on free and open-source self-sovereignty, security and privacy solutions.”
Incidentally, BTCPay Server’s main contributors noticed that Tor was using BitPay to accept donations, though not in the most privacy-preserving manner.
“They received decent support from Bitcoin, but also from the Altcoin communities,” Pavlenex said. “We noticed that they are using static addresses, which is not the best privacy practice. We reached out to them and talked about privacy and security improvements they can get by BTCPay Server, not only for themselves but also for their donors.”
Inspired by the success the Hodlonaut campaign enjoyed, Pavlenex said the team wanted to showcase how supportive the Bitcoin community is when it rallies to a cause, especially for free and open-source initiatives.
How to Donate to Tor
Hosted on the Tor subdomain, the fundraiser will accept both Lightning and on-chain donations. It will run for two weeks (from July 15 to 29, 2019) and have a soft cap of $10,000. Pavlenex hopes that “Bitcoiners will use their gains from the recent price increase and support the campaign” and is optimistic that they’ll clear this cap “quickly.”
Contributors will be able to access the campaign through Tor or a conventional browser. All on-chain funds will drop straight into Tor’s custom-made Ledger (courtesy of the hardware manufacturer itself) and all Lightning payments will go straight to Tor’s Lightning node.
That’s the beautiful self-sovereignty that BTCPay Server allows, as opposed to traditional crowdraising mechanisms like GoFundMe, or even crypto-alternatives like BitPay, Pavlenex expressed.
“With BTCPay, people are their own payment processor,” Pavlenex said. “There are no intermediaries nor any sort of fees. What your donors send you is what you get; nobody is taking a cut.”
BTCPay also features greater privacy than most alternatives, having “integrated Tor into BTCPay [as] a default option for all deployments.”
It’s not without its flaws, however. For instance, BTCPay, as a Bitcoin-native application, hasn’t reckoned how to integrate fiat ramps, something Pavlenex said the team is “working on.” There are also some technical and administrative hurdles, as it’s a self-hosted solution, so, “like having your own website, you need to market it yourself,” as opposed to working with a centralized hub like GoFundMe.
Still, if any group was going to come out in droves for a cypherpunk project committed to free and open use of the web and its information, it would be the Bitcoin faithful — just look at its support for Wikileaks. Tor itself is integrated into many popular Bitcoin services, wallets and hardware (e.g., Lightning Lab’s wallet, Casa, Wasabi, Samourai, etc.). So, with incentives and missions aligned, Pavlenex hopes that the Bitcoin community “[using] Tor on a daily basis” will “give something back to people who work very hard on [it].”
Expanding Bitcoin Crowdfunding
Beyond the Tor campaign, BTCPay Server envisions expanding the fundraising model to other open-source projects to support free and open development around the web.
“Hodlnaut’s legal fund proved that the community stands for each other and that the attack on one of us is the attack on all of us. It showed us that in time of crisis, Bitcoiners are united. We’re hoping to set up campaigns like this in the future for people and open-source projects that need it,” Pavlex said, adding that any project that would like to raise bitcoin should reach out.
The more projects that do, the more this positions bitcoin as a viable fundraising option. If Bitcoiners rally to the cause, this framework could disrupt how open-source projects accrue revenue and redefine how the community supports some of its most innovative (and perhaps under-funded) endeavors.
July 19, 2019:Update — The fundraiser reached its soft cap goal of $10,000 in 25 hours. At the time of this update, the campaign has garnered $16,690 in donations with 10 days remaining.