Who pays free crypto developers?

Government Aid

The Tor project, which enables anonymous surfing using encryption and numerous proxies, doesn't need the money of the CII, however. The project is financed mainly through larger donors; it gathered more than US$  2 million in 2012, giving rise to suspicion: Although the project regularly publishes a report [11] listing sources of donations, they included various government organizations once again in 2012. Skeptics speculate that these offices are influencing the development work.

Even without the suspected backdoor, Tor is in the national interest of the US government, because it allows dissidents in authoritarian countries to communicate. The Tor project flatly denies the existence of a backdoor [12] and refers critics to the freely accessible source code for its software.

The Tor project's hosting costs are low because volunteers operate the network's computing nodes (relays; Figure 2); most of the money is spent on development, research, and marketing.

Figure 2: The combination of Tor and HTTPS significantly complicates the process of sniffing Internet connections, as the website of the Electronic Frontier Foundation tries to demonstrate (image: https://www.eff.org/pages/tor-and-https).

In Germany, projects actively need to seek support from authorities or governments and apply for appropriate tenders. In this way, the GnuPG project also received short-term financial support from Germany's BMI.

In some cases, companies also finance the complete development of a project. One prominent example of this is OpenVPN [13], which is backed by OpenVPN Technologies Inc. "Partners" generate revenue with support contracts and commercial VPN services. In such a model, however, the project depends on a single company, which alone decides which patches to accept and who reviews the software on its behalf.

Crowd Strong?

To raise more money, the GnuPG project started a crowd-funding campaign on Goteo in 2014 (Figure 3) [14]. This form of donation is only suitable for clearly defined objectives; the project wants to revise its website and fund new infrastructure with the funds raised. However, the developers first need to raise user awareness of the campaign and mobilize them. This requires massive work and advertising overhead. If the project hands out rewards depending on the amount of the donation, such as T-shirts, additional costs and other expenses arise.

Figure 3: The GnuPG project launched a relatively successful crowd-funding project on Goteo in 2014.

Most projects are looking for one thing: more time for development. You can only get this if the dedicated developers have enough money to live on. As Werner Koch, the maintainer and creator of GnuPG, outlines in the interview, crowd funding does not typically provide permanent funding, and the figures for OpenSSL and GnuPG clearly show that donations alone cannot solve the problem in the long run.

Above all, projects in which the companies that benefit from the work employ the developers, or substantially finance the development work, seem to be successful.

As Marquess of the Open SSL project stated: "The ones who should be contributing real resources are the commercial companies and governments who use OpenSSL extensively and take it for granted.

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