When Gitcoin first started in 2017 we focused on the mission of growing and sustaining open source software. During my 10 years in tech startups I had seen that everything and I mean everything in the startup ecosystem was built on top of open source. From the protocols that are the substrate of the internet, to Linux, to WordPress (the most popular content management system in the world) billions of dollars in economic activity, and billions of users interact with open source every year.
Like many developers, I am passionate about open source. It means a lot to me to be able to use and iterate off of work crafted by developers preceding me. But it’s more than just the tech itself, it’s the ethos. Open source attracts problem solvers — builders who are more concerned with tackling challenges than individual accolades. Open source promotes team work, bridging communities across borders. We may not share the same culture, but we write the same code.
There is a deeper level to it though. Open Source Software is our digital infrastructure, and our civilization is increasingly digital. Though I’m optimistic about our future, there’s no doubt we have incredible challenges ahead. There are things we see, for example environmental concerns, war, poverty, censorship, and disease that all put humanity’s ability to thrive at risk. But what’s more worrisome is what we don’t see. Black Swan events, like the heartbleed bug or a cyberattack, are hugely impactful and can happen at any moment. All these risks, discovered or not, require global coordination on a level I frankly don’t think we are ready for yet.
If we’re going to overcome our challenges, we have to be able work together regardless of our differences in nationality, culture, politics, and philosophy. We have to build coordination tools that let us interact without having to trust each other, or trust third parties who may have their own agenda that conflicts with human survival. Tools like decentralized governance systems and exchanges, and decentralized money like cryptocurrency. This is what open source technology allows us to do, and it’s why I’ve devoted a significant portion of my life to growing and sustaining open source.
Open source gives me hope. Over $500bn/year in economic value is generated with it. From Open Source, the internet and blockchain technology were developed. These are the two most important coordination tools ever created, and if properly fostered will give us and generations after us our best chance to thrive. But more than that, I believe open source is critical to our survival.
Open source is a digital public good — like clean air and clean water it is relied on by everyone, and even suffers from the same free rider problem as other public goods. Everyone benefits from open source but no one is required to pay to use it.
That’s why we started Gitcoin — to make sure open source builders were paid, so digital public goods got built. We believe this is the best way to ensure critical coordination tools are developed.
On a local level, Gitcoin has a coordination problem of its own. How do we effectively organize at web-scale? How do we stay afloat ourselves? We’re organized as a company, with a top-down management structure. As much as we try to operate as flat as possible, the reality is I have the final call, and as founder/CEO I take responsibility when things go wrong but also credit when things go right.
Likewise, though we feel honor-bound to do as our community wishes, the Gitcoin Team has ultimate say over any governance questions that arise. If the foundation of any legitimate government is the consent of the governed, then we owe it to our community to encourage them to govern Gitcoin.
The more popular Gitcoin becomes (the better we do our job) the more governance questions surface that would be best left to the community to decide. Examples of these are:
- What constitutes a public good, and therefore an acceptable grant?
- What is the definition of a malicious action against the Quadratic Funding mechanism?
- What consequences should befall malicious actors?
- Which grant collections should be discoverable on gitcoin.co?
- How large should grants rounds be, and who is eligible?
A hyper-recent example is Vitalik gifted millions of dollars in meme coins to the Gitcoin Community Multisig wallet on May 12th. How should they be allocated? Should we exchange them for ETH? We strongly believe these questions are best left to the community to answer.
Neither I nor the Gitcoin Team believe we should make these decisions on behalf of the community. And as Gitcoin scales, as grants rounds go from $1mm per quarter to $100mm or more, governance decisions carry exponentially more weight. There is evidence that Gitcoin usage will continue to grow, as we are doing $10mm/year and open source accounts for over $500b in economic output per year. It’s well within the range of possibility to extrapolate that there is 4 orders of magnitude of growth for Gitcoin ahead.
We want to exemplify the open source ethos we admire so much, and we want to put the community fully in the driver’s seat. That’s why it’s time to decentralize Gitcoin governance, and empower our community to shape Gitcoin’s future and the future of digital public goods.
A decentralized Gitcoin is flexible, able to iterate based on feedback from community stakeholders. We want builders to have their best opportunity to earn, learn, and connect in open source on Gitcoin. Through governance builders get to define what that means and then make it so. A decentralized Gitcoin is antifragile — no longer reliant upon the efforts of the Gitcoin Team or any other central party. Community empowerment yields community consent, and with it Gitcoin remains directionally sound and retains high legitimacy. The more Gitcoin is imbued with the will of the community we serve, the longer the community will allow Gitcoin to serve them.
A decentralized Gitcoin is collaborative. We view Gitcoin as the nexus for open source builders, funders, and protocols. Through community governance, individual community members get to decide how they interact with each other and with the technology integrated into the Gitcoin platform. A decentralized Gitcoin is global, agnostic to nationality and culture. We are a global community and therefore we must work together to overcome global challenges.
A decentralized Gitcoin is flexible, antifragile, collaborative, and global, far more capable of empowering the next generation of builders to create the coordination tools that will strengthen our species. Together, we can create a better future by supporting the open web and those who build it. We can show the world that the EVM is more than just decentralized casinos — it can be used to uplift humanity.