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The “Donate in Bitcoin” Button

A couple weeks ago, I was mindlessly scrolling through various posts on X on the subjects of finance and cryptocurrency (as one does in this modern world), and I noticed that Bitcoin was once again stealing headlines thanks to another of its rapid “hockey-stick” runups in value.

In fact, in the last 6 months, the flagship cryptocurrency has increased its worth by around 120% – with 1 Bitcoin seeing its trade value increase from a little over $26,000 to over $57,000 during that span. (I have had to adjust this figure twice during the editing process because of how fast Bitcoin is gaining value right now).

This is interesting, I thought.

But then something else dawned on me.

Didn’t GIMP used to have a “Donate in Bitcoin” button on its website many years ago? Like, back in the days when Bitcoin was dirt cheap, and sending someone Bitcoin was kind of a novelty?

If GIMP ever received any Bitcoin donations from users over the many years this button was visible on its site, and held on to the Bitcoin it received, such donations might have significantly appreciated in value by now, and GIMP therefor may sneakily have a rich stockpile of Bitcoin somewhere.

Is GIMP Swimming in Bitcoin?

Naturally, I took to X to broach the subject with my followers – many of whom are tapped into the GIMP community. In a post, I mused: “I remember at one point GIMP was openly taking donations in Bitcoin on its website. I would assume some people did indeed donate to the GIMP project in Bitcoin. Does this mean GIMP is swimming in Bitcoin?”

Unsurprisingly, and to my delight, I almost immediately received a response from @CMYKStudent, a GIMP contributor, that confirmed my suspicions: GIMP did have a prominent Bitcoin donation button displayed on its website several years back, and some people did indeed donate to GIMP with Bitcoin.

The Reddit Thread

In fact, as was pointed out in @CMYKStudent’s response, there’s a Reddit thread addressing this very topic.

In this Reddit thread, labeled “$1,300,000 in Bitcoin donations idle since 2014,” Reddit user hans7070 asserts (incorrectly) that “GIMP lost access to it’s bitcoin address.”

This is evidenced by the absence of withdrawals from the address since July 2014, hans7070 surmises: “[GIMP] hasn’t moved any of it’s 21 bitcoin; last transaction is from 2014-07-31, yet people are still donating and it’s still the official donation address.”

This is where things get even more interesting.

In response to the post, Reddit user and longtime GIMP contributor schumaml assured the original poster that access to the account has not been lost, and that he is actually the sole controller of the account.

byu/hans7070 from discussion

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read), schumaml claims he set the account up long ago to solicit a single donation, that he doesn’t like being the sole controller of the crypto wallet, and that he thinks some kind of committee needs to be set up to give more people access to the funds and control over how the funds are spent.

Another reddit user, psignosis, responded to this post by asking if there were any plans to sort this situation out.

That’s when reddit user Jehan_ZeMarmot, the reddit account run by GIMP co-maintainer Jehan, chimed in:

byu/hans7070 from discussion

TL;DR, Jehan would like to see GIMP contributors, including himself, get funded through this account, but believes the distribution of the funds could be a legal gray area due to the nascency of Bitcoin and the international nature of the GIMP project (i.e. trying to cash out cryptocurrency and distribute money to various recipients, in various currencies, around the world has complicated tax implications). There have been ongoing discussions to form an entity to handle such legal and administrative matters, Jehan elaborates, but no entity has yet been formed (though, according to @CMYKStudent’s response to my original X post referenced earlier in this article, forming an entity or organization is currently “in-progress.” More on that momentarily).

GIMP Has a $1 Million Bitcoin Problem

In other words, GIMP currently has a $1,000,000* Bitcoin problem on its hands. It has a little over 21 Bitcoins sitting in a crypto wallet, with no (known) detailed plan to fairly use or distribute the funds.

*The value of Bitcoin is constantly fluctuating – with the value of the crypto wallet account at the time of this article hovering just above $1.2 million

The problem wasn’t always this large – the value of these donations back in July of 2014, the last time anyone purportedly transacted from this account, peaked just above $12,000 (based on the account’s current balance of 21.19 Bitcoins and a peak value of $586 per Bitcoin in July 2014). However, as the account remained idle, Bitcoin’s popularity skyrocketed and the cryptocurrency exponentially increased in value. As of today, the account has increased in value by 9,900%.

Most people would probably believe that having $1 million lying around would be a good problem, but having no way to distribute the money, and no system or strategy for who gets what, is certainly a thorny issue.

Further complicating this situation is the fact that GIMP is developed and maintained by volunteer contributors. The people who work on GIMP do so knowing that they won’t get paid. If contributors want to get paid for their work, they can solicit donation payments from the broader community – including from GIMP users directly, among other funding sources.

But the GIMP project (which, again, is not an organization or legal entity at present), much like other free and open source software projects, is under no obligation to pay anyone, and there is no standard pay scale or schedule for paying contributors based on their experience or time committed to the project.

This being said, just because GIMP doesn’t have to pay contributors, doesn’t mean it can’t pay them.

Yet coming up with an equitable solution for doling out cash to contributors of an ongoing, volunteer, free and open source software project that’s 25 years in the making and built by everyone from transient beginners to mainstay programming wizards may be extremely challenging.

Davies Media Design Poll Asking What GIMP Should Do with $1 million
In a poll posted in the community tab of the Davies Media Design YouTube channel, I asked what GIMP should do (hypothetically) with $1 million. An overwhelming majority of users said “Pay its contributors/developers” (note: I posted this poll before the release of this article).

Many would also argue, as touched upon earlier, that paying people to work on GIMP is counter to its ethos.

However, GIMP has always solicited donations to help pay for developer conferences and for developers’ travel expenses to get to those conferences.

Enter The Wilber Foundation

Jehan, the aforementioned co-maintainer of GIMP, has been spearheading work on creating a “Wilber Foundation” to sort some of this out, as he discusses in this interview from Wilber Week 2023 (conducted by Blender’s Pablo Vazquez – Wilber Foundation comes up around the 13:47 mark).

The goal of this foundation would be to help developers “make a living” from working on GIMP, which Jehan describes as being “very hard” at present. It would do this by directing all GIMP donations to the entity (rather than to individual contributor accounts, as is the current setup), and the entity would determine how funds are dispersed.

The responsibilities of this foundation would likely include all aspects of the current funding system, whereas a portion of collected donations are utilized to run conferences and facilitate travel to these conferences.

Jehan alluded to the Wilber Foundation, and the Bitcoin being transferred to this foundation, in his aforementioned Reddit thread reply: “We have had regular discussions about having an entity for more than a year now. This [what to do with the Bitcoin balance] might go through this [entity – presumably the Wilber Foundation]. We’d need to get advised (by proper law professionals, not the random internet commenter) in any case.”

In fact, plans for the Wilber Foundation were originally discussed as early as 2019 (the Reddit thread is from 2 years ago – so somewhere around 2022), but after a “hiatus” from these discussions, work on this project wasn’t revived until 2022 (likely due in some part to COVID).

More recent news on this topic surfaced in Jehan’s Wilber Week update, which was posted on the GIMP website on June 29, 2023. Under the subheading “Making Plans: A Foundation?” Jehan confirms that “we have been trying to set up our own entity” and that “we are actually quite advanced” in the work to create a foundation centered around GIMP.

Jehan goes on to address how such a foundation would align with GIMP’s ethos:

Now something to be clear about: GIMP has always been a bit of a messy and friendly community project. And that’s part of what I like about it: this bit of anarchy. Whatever we build to support the project, I will always fight for this spirit to live on. This was in fact one of the [most] difficult part[s] of setting up an organization and why it took so long: doing so without the organization taking over the project, but instead as a support to the community.

GIMP 3.0 Is the Main Focus

There is no concrete timeline for the official establishment of the “Wilber Foundation” at present, and this is largely to blame due to the intense focus on getting GIMP 3.0 completed and released.

However, once GIMP 3.0 is finally complete, Jehan and other “decision-makers” around the GIMP project may see a big push to bring the Wilber Foundation into being.

That’s step one.

Step two would be something like: receiving advice from tax, fundraising, non-profit, and/or financial professionals on how to execute a large transfer of crypto funds from an individually-controlled crypto wallet into the account of a multi-national non-profit. This would probably be followed by executing that advice to successfully receive the funds.

Step three, which may happen parallel to planning and executing step two, would be to figure out where and why the money is allocated. That of course would be followed up with actually distributing the funds, one could reasonably assume, along with addressing any red-tape that comes with all that.

While all this is being sorted out, Bitcoin, a notoriously volatile “digital store of value,” has the potential to continue to soar in value or crash down to earth and become worthless.

All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only, and shall not be relied upon as personal financial advice.