Bitcoin Core has announced a new sponsorship program, a move that finds the largely volunteer community that develops the open-source bitcoin software opening its development process up to funding from industry stakeholders.

The announcement comes weeks after the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced a $900,000 support fund aimed at promoting bitcoin development. In that instance, however, the funds are being directed to three specific developers – Gavin Andresen, Cory Fields and Wladimir van der Laan.

In interview, Van der Laan, the project’s lead maintainer told CoinDesk that the initiative grew out of desire from startups in the bitcoin space to help support the open-source project financially.

“A few companies are showing interest in funding Bitcoin Core development, which could be a big help to us,” he said. “It would allow more directed development in addition to the open-source approach we’ve always used.”

Van der Laan went on to explain:

“This means that some tasks that either require longer research or development, such as sync algorithm and privacy improvements, or the (usually perceived as) less sexy tasks such as documentation and Windows support suffer. Also more delicate areas such as the wallet currently suffer from lack of active development.”

This funding, according to the announcement, would go beyond simply funding specific projects.

According to Core’s announcement of the sponsorship program, the project needs funding to help support quality assurance testing as well as money “for communications, public relations, documentation and other resources”.

Van der Laan told CoinDesk that he’d like to see new documentation for both users and developers, as well as improvements to bitcoin transaction privacy and work on the Lightning Network project.

A list of other top priorities identified by the project can be found here.

Decentralized support

Van der Laan said that under the arrangement, companies that are sponsoring a project will remain in control of the funds, or could opt to set up an escrow to disburse them over time.

“Core developers choose a mentor for a project, who will make sure it gets implemented, probably by choosing someone that has contributed to the project before, and that has a reputation of doing such changes right,” he said. “The funding will just allow them to spend more time on it. Companies decide what specific projects they want to fund.”

Van der Laan went on to suggest that the arrangement is best suited to Core’s capabilities, as opposed to other routes like crowdfunding.

“We don’t have the capacity to deal with, say, crowdfunding and all the noise that entails,” he said.

In comments to CoinDesk, Core contributor Peter Todd said the process used helps avoid putting responsibility of funds in the hands of a centralized organization like the Bitcoin Foundation, which in previous years had supported development of Core.

“The structure of it isn’t as a central institution, but rather something closer to a ‘matchmaking’ service – the actual financial interaction is between funder and fundees, with Bitcoin Core helping the two sides get together,” he said, adding:

“This is quite unlike, and much more decentralized, than the model of the Bitcoin Foundation as a central entity to hold and distribute funds.”

Opinion image via Shutterstock

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