Open-Source and Quadratic Funding

Aug 2, 2022

Open-source developers are rarely compensated relative to the impact that their code has. So how should we fund code that might be considered a public good?

Gitcoin is a platform that funds open-source development, mostly in web3. It's funded about $64m in open-source development since 2017. Fund are allocated through grants, bounties, and contests. The funding model is unique as it relies on something called Quadratic funding0.

Quadratic funding is where the amount received by a project is proportional to the square of the sum of the square roots of contributions received.

That is, funds should be allocated to the projects that affect the most people. Special care needs to be taken to avoid Sybil Attacks that would distort the real number of contributions.

Much of open-source has become vendor-dominated. For the past few years, it's been a great go-to-market strategy for startups and a competitive one for big tech. I know. I worked exclusively on open-source at Google1 (Kubernetes and containers) for years. There are exceptions, but for the most part, it's great for consumers, developers, and companies. Though, it's sometimes a far cry from the solo hackers of open-source lore. Whether Gitcoin brings us closer or further from that ideal (?) it's to be determined.

Practically, Gitcoin solves the two issues that web3 companies face: an influx of cash but (1) not enough developers and (2) difficult distribution to build open-source communities. It will be interesting to see how this funding model works in a bear market.

I'm all for more experiments.

0Quadratic funding is related to quadratic voting
1I wrote zero proprietary code at Google