GitHub was one of the most exciting and innovative tech startups when it first emerged in 2008, pioneering the concept of a collaborative platform that’s also “a social media for developers.”
Combining what’s arguably the world’s best version control software, Git, with an online repository-hosting platform and service, GitHub grew in popularity and influence all the way to being acquired last year by Microsoft for a whopping $7.5 billion.
Over the years, GitHub had become the darling of open-source world – despite some components of the service being proprietary. But Git itself is an open-source flagship, and GitHub is now hosting the largest collection of this type of software – attracting in the process nearly 30 million developers.
However, the Microsoft acquisition did not sit well with everyone in GitHub’s open source userbase – in fact, there had been something of a campaign to leave the platform and join alternatives.
Perhaps aware more acutely than ever of the need to be prove its commitment to open source and stay in the good graces of this ecosystem that is today the powerful driving force behind not only the company itself but also much of the world’s technology, GitHub has launched a new project – “GitHub Sponsors.”
The goal is to address the problem of sustained funding of open source developers, and by extension, of their software, ensuring its longevity and reliability.
And while big open source companies make their money by charging for services, a major problem faced by smaller developers is finding ways to monetize their work, as open source software itself is typically free – not only as in “freedom,” but also as in “beer.”
The idea of sponsoring creators of any kind, including programmers, is not new – Patreon is one popular way to do this. But GitHub is now bringing funding directly to developers – potentially greatly facilitating the process – and also, foregoing platform fees, while covering payment processing fees for the project’s first year.
GitHub has also set up its Matching Fund and will match all contributions made towards a developer – up to $5,000, during their first year in the program.