Late last year, a letter was posted on BitcoinDevelopmentGrant.com that announced a $1.2 million grant fund for those working on Bitcoin protocol development. Attached to the letter were five principles agreed to by the signers, which included a wide range of individuals from Bitcoin Core contributor Luke Dashjr to Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong.
Outside of the announcement on the website, not much is known about the details of the Bitcoin development grant fund. CoinJournal reached out to the contributing entities behind the fund, Bitmain and Bitcoin.com, to get more details on the program. Although Bitmain decided not to comment on the grant fund, Jake Smith and Roger Ver from Bitcoin.com were willing to answer a few questions about the project.
According to Ver, three teams have already received grants from the development fund, and the total amount of money in the fund will increase as more companies are stepping up to contribute. Ver is also likely to contribute more of his own money to the fund.
Specifics related to the teams that have received funding and the companies that will be contributing more funds to the program were not made available to CoinJournal.
How are the Funds for the Grant Program Handled?
According to Smith, Bitmain and Bitcoin.com are the only entities who contributed to the Bitcoin development grant fund so far, which means the funds will be dispersed at their discretion. Having said that, everyone who signed the letter was also offered the opportunity to contribute to this program.
“All companies were welcome to contribute funds,” said Smith. “We think it would be great if more companies stepped forward to support protocol development in their own ways.”
Response to Critics Who Say the Grant is a Political Move
There was a bit of controversy surrounding the letter attached to the Bitcoin development grant fund when it was first announced. Some members of the Bitcoin community felt that attaching a letter that nearly everyone in the Bitcoin ecosystem would sign to a grant program that may lead to funding for Bitcoin Unlimited or other software clients that intend to break away from the current version of the Bitcoin network was a move motivated by politics.
Marek “Slush” Palatinus of Satoshi Labs articulated this point of view on Twitter following the announcement of the grant program. “For the record: I refused to cosign it. Although I can agree with these values ‘per se’, I don’t want be involved in dark political games”, he added.
— slush (@slushcz) November 18, 2016
“If people think supporting Bitcoin development and saying no to censorship are political games, that is probably their own cognitive biases revealing themselves,” said Smith when asked about this sort of criticism of the development grant fund announcement. “We think it is an unfortunate state of affairs that it is now considered controversial for Bitcoin companies, who are funded by Bitcoin, to donate Bitcoin to Bitcoin developers.”
In Smith’s view, the statement found on the Bitcoin Development Grant website would have been widely praised among the industry only two years ago. “It says a lot about the political climate that Bitcoin companies can’t even donate money to developers without catching flak for it,” he added.
To be clear, it was the attachment of the letter to a grant program that could lead to funding for Bitcoin Unlimited (or similar projects that intend to break away from Bitcoin’s current consensus rules) that was the source of criticism. Practically no one found anything in the letter to be controversial.
“The overwhelming majority of companies contacted for the statement expressed their support, but many chose to abstain from signing because they were concerned about potential backlash for having their names on it,” said Smith. “It is very unfortunate that Bitcoin companies do not feel safe publicly saying they support Bitcoin developers and disagree with censorship.”
Mycelium did not return multiple requests for comment on the Bitcoin development grant fund.
Disclosure: In the past, the author of this article has completed contract work for Bitcoin.com.