Longtime Bitcoin Developer Jonas Schnelli Receives Open Source Grant

Jonas Schnelli joins other Bitcoin developers who are sponsored by high-caliber Bitcoin companies.

Jan 28, 2021 at 6:04 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 11:02 a.m. UTC

Marathon Patent Group (MARA) announced Thursday it will bankroll the work of Bitcoin Core developer Jonas Schnelli. The year-long grant is worth $96,000, payable in bitcoin.

Previously, Bitmain funded Schnelli’s work before nixing his and other's grants last year, something Marathon Patent Group highlighted in its correspondence with CoinDesk.

“Bitmain cancelled all of their funding for [Schnelli and other developers]...which left Jonas seeking a new grant,” Merrick Okamoto, Marathon’s chairman and CEO, told CoinDesk.

"It feels amazing that the community has each others' back. I sent a single tweet (that I lost the Bitcoin sponsorship) and things moved super fast," Schnelli told CoinDesk.

In a press release, Okamoto commented, “We believe it is essential that we do our part to help advance the Bitcoin network. Absent core developers like Jonas, Bitcoin’s efficacy and long-term adoption, and therefore our business, could be impacted. This grant will allow Jonas to continue his important work on our collective behalf.”

Funding Bitcoin development

The funding is crucial for an open-source project like Bitcoin that has no company or central entity backing it, and it’s coming from a grassroots movement of Bitcoin companies following each other’s leads to give back part of their profits to the developer community.

Schnelli has been contributing to Bitcoin Core since 2013 and his 516 commits make him the the ninth most active developer on the Bitcoin Core code. Along with his work on the Bitcoin source code, he has created a code library for creating Bitcoin applications in the C coding language and helped design the BitBox hardware wallet.

In addition to this grant, Schnelli also has 55 individual sponsors on GitHub.

Schnelli told CoinDesk that he'll use the new funding "to work on Bitcoin Core, mainly on maintenance and usability." Namely, he'd like to finish up a working version of Bitcoin Improvement Proposal 324 for encrypted peer-to-peer messaging between Bitcoin nodes, along with "proposing a Simplified Payment Verification mode (SPV) for Bitcoin Core" and working on Bitcoin Core CI scripts.

Bitcoin developer grants

Another Bitcoin developer, João Barbosa, had his funding from Bitmain revoked at the same time as Schnelli, but Barbosa bounced back at the end of 2020 when he received one of Coinbase’s first Crypto Community Fund grants.

Schnelli and Barbosa's positions are not uncommon. 

Before last year, most all open-source developers in Bitcoin volunteered their time to work on the Bitcoin software and protocol. Others were lucky enough to be hired by a well-capitalized firm like Blockstream or Chaincode Labs, but most never received compensation for their work.

Now, dozens of open source protocol developers and software designers are on the payrolls of Marathon, Coinbase, BitMEX, Kraken, OKCoin, Square Crypto, Gemini and Human Rights Foundation, among others. 

Update (18:42 UTC): This article has been updated with quotes and information from Marathon Patent Group.

Update (19:16 UTC): This article has been updated with quotes from Jonas Schnelli.

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