The Bitcoin Core development team launched a “Sponsorship Programme” on Monday that intends to provide an easy access point for the Bitcoin industry to support Bitcoin's long-time reference client with both funding and other types of contributions.
Bitcoin Core developer and Ciphrex CEO Eric Lombrozo:
“The entire ecosystem depends on projects like Bitcoin Core, but most companies haven't really had a way of contributing resources for this effectively. We want to offer that, and encourage greater involvement in the development process.”
The sponsorship program is not the first attempt to fund Bitcoin development. But over the years, it was difficult to provide a consistent stream of income for the most active contributors to the project, as most companies were hesitant to contribute. And donation and crowdfunding-based methods proved insufficient.
“Funding Bitcoin development has always been a complicated issue. A first attempt to structurally ensure funding for the team, the Bitcoin Foundation, was established in 2012, but ran out of funds last year. Since then, MIT Media Lab's Digital Currency Initiative pays the salaries of three developers: Wladimir van der Laan, Cory Fields and Gavin Andresen. Others – like myself – fund our work through a company we founded ourselves, while a small number of developers are hired by companies. And some volunteer their efforts.”
The sponsorship program is perhaps the most direct way for industry players to help fund the development process yet. Potential sponsors can contact some of the most active developers of the project directly through email, after which arrangements can be set up.
Along with the announcement of the program, the Bitcoin Core development team published a list of projects that require funding or resources (or both.) These include technical projects to improve the Bitcoin Core software and the Bitcoin protocol in various ways, such as increased privacy features, faster block propagation methods and overall research.
The page also lists more general tasks, such as website maintenance, public relations and education. Bitcoin companies can propose projects themselves as well.
“The current Bitcoin ecosystem has received tremendous amounts of investment at the application level â€’ but this is still very new technology, and we need more investment in infrastructure and basic research and development. We want to encourage the development of a vibrant ecosystem with many different companies working together to build this infrastructure and solve key problems in the tech and other areas.”
Much like the typical non-specific rough consensus-based decision-making process, the main contributors to the implementation, along with the potential sponsor, will decide whether a project can be funded, and how.
As the sponsorship program page on the Bitcoin Core website explains:
“Bitcoin Core will always progress on the path of technical and scientific based research and requirements that are compatible with the goals of the Bitcoin system. [P]rivacy, censorship resistance, decentralization, and voluntaryism are key tenets of Bitcoin. Sponsorships therefore cannot guarantee a particular feature would make it into the Bitcoin Core software and even if included, ultimately Bitcoin users decide what software they run, and what features get adopted.”
“[S]ponsorships will be screened for compatibility in advance, so that if the requisite research and development are done, and if the work it passes peer review, there is every reason to believe it could become part of the Bitcoin Core software.”
All funded projects will be managed by a dedicated project lead developer, who is responsible for coordination of the project, such as allocating the available funds and reporting on the progress. Most of the specifics are to be worked out between the Bitcoin Core development team and the potential sponsor, however.
The current sponsorship program is specifically intended for industry players. Bitcoin Core does not (yet) have any mechanisms in place to accept smaller donations.
For more information on Bitcoin Core's sponsorship program, see the initiative's FAQ.