OKCoin Pledges 1,000 BTC to Devs Working on Bitcoin (and Its Forks)

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One of the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchanges is pledging millions of dollars to support Bitcoin’s independent developer community. But hold on to your gas mask, toxic maximalists, because it’s spreading the wealth to Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin SV devs too. 

OKCoin announced its “Let’s Build Bitcoin Together!” campaign today, September 3, 2019, which promises that the exchange will donate 1,000 BTC (right now, that’s worth anywhere between $9.5 and $10 million, depending on bitcoin’s daily mood) to certain developers working on Bitcoin. Apparently, this “Build Bitcoin Together!” kumbaya also includes Bitcoin’s most notorious forks.

“[The] vote driven initiative … pledges to donate up to 1,000 BTC (approximately USD 9.5 million) to the developers of Bitcoin (BTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), and Bitcoin Satoshi’s Vision (BSV),” according to a press release from OKCoin shared with Bitcoin Magazine

OKCoin users can vote to fund Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash or Bitcoin SV, and the final tally will be divided among a handful of developers and organizations representing each project.

Bitcoin FOSS Needs Funding

For developers working in free and open-source software (FOSS), funding is often paltry or nil — and Bitcoin is no exception. Most developers are volunteers who work on Bitcoin with no promise of compensation. Some who began working for free, like Peter Wuille and much of Blockstream’s team, moved on to having their work bankrolled by Bitcoin companies. But many still work for next to nothing.

“Funding for FOSS devs is very important. But it is hard to find a good model that remains fair and sustainable,” former Bitcoin Core contributor and Ciphrex CEO Eric Lombrozo told Bitcoin Magazine.

To this end, the developers or organizations that OKCoin has selected are independent and lack any central funding. For Bitcoin, this includes Luke Dashjr, Ben Woosley, Michael Ford (also known as fanquake), Sjors Provoost, Jonas Schnelli and Jimmy Song. 

Notably, no individual developers were chosen to represent Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin SV — only organizations. Potential beneficiaries for Bitcoin Cash include the teams behind its primary full node implementations (Bitcoin ABC, BCHD and Bitcoin Unlimited); while Jimmy Nguyen’s Bitcoin Association and Ella Qiang’s CambrianSV are vying for the Bitcoin SV allocation of the pledge.

According to the press release, OKCoin chose these individuals or entities because they are “verified individuals or organizations who fulfilled the specifications of the initiative.” Chosen as they were by the exchange, OKCoin is leaving the actual funding allocation to the community. You can vote for which developer or organization you think best deserves the funding on OKCoin’s website. Each vote equals 0.2 BTC in funding (“or the BCH or BSV equivalent”). 

A disclaimer at the bottom of an OKCoin press release states that it “does not impose restrictions or monitoring of how the donations are spent.”

Coinsplit Assets Included

The press release also says that the “campaign aims to bring together three well-known players in the Bitcoin community” to “not put one project against the other” and to “highlight the shared history” of the three coins. 

Well-known indeed, Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin SV have fomented much discussion and, at times, unrest within Bitcoin’s mosaic community. As the network’s first coinsplit, Bitcoin Cash’s creation in August 2017 stoked tension in an ongoing scaling discussion and continues to spark hot debates between its followers and the Bitcoin faithful. Bitcoin SV, which forked from Bitcoin Cash in November 2018, added a bit of absurdist fuel to the always-flickering fires of Bitcoin’s fork wars. 

In its bid for inclusion and community reconciliation, OKCoin included the two forks even though their developer activity lags significantly behind Bitcoin’s. This is ostensibly the reason for the vote, as the allocation of resources should mirror community support for the projects. 

But the vote will be conducted through OKCoin accounts, so this may exclude people who don’t use the exchange. Moreover, OKCoin didn’t elucidate how it plans to curb double or multi voting; OKCoin has KYC, but you could theoretically fabricate an account using someone else’s identity. 

And questions still remain as to how OKCoin plans to distribute the donations. Per Lombrozo’s comment that such FOSS funding campaigns struggle to remain “fair and sustainable,” distribution, voting collection and a centralized decision-making process by which developers are eligible for the reward all expose the weak points of such fundraising. 

At the time of publication, OKCoin had not responded to Bitcoin Magazine’s questions and request for direct comment.