Werner Koch and his team of GnuPG developers are asking for funding for the continued development of the popular free email and data encryption software.
What is GnuPG, and why you should care about it
GnuPG (aka Gnu Privacy Guard, aka GPG) is a command line tool that can be easily integrated with other applications.
It is widely used by journalists, activists, lawyers, companies and organizations who want to keep their communications secure from prying eyes, but is also used to protect software updates for nearly all free software operating systems.
But unlike many other widely used software, GnuPG is the fruit of the efforts of a small band of developer lead by Koch, the original GnuPG creator, and this group depends on donations to keep the software updated and free of bugs.
GnuPG development funding
Two years ago, Koch was on the verge of abandoning work on the free software, as he could no longer afford to neglect work that actually brought in money.
In fact, he initially decided to stop doing it two years before that, but then the Snowden revelations happened (Snowden himself is a GnuPG user), and he decided that it was too important to too many people.
A timely and successful donation drive ultimately kept the lights on, and allowed Koch to hire more developers and improve the software and start additional projects.
Now, two years later, they need more money. Stripe, Facebook and the Linux Foundation do provide some money for the project, but the developers want most of it to come from the general public.
“We want to continue this work in the long term. But, we want to do so in such a way that our first loyalty is unambiguously to the general public. This means making sure that a majority of our funding comes from individual donors, and not corporations,” they say.
Also, they want to ensure long-term stability of the project, and will focus on recurring donations. Their primary goal is to get donation commitments for 15 000 euros per month.
“This money will firstly allow us to continue our maintenance of GnuPG. We also intend to use it to fund our work on the Gnuk security token. And, one new project that it will support is a book called ‘An Advanced Introduction to GnuPG.’ A book for developers who want to integrate GnuPG into their programs, and need to understand the various concepts, the important security tradeoffs, and common pitfalls; for digital security trainers who need to understand GnuPG to be able to make sound recommendations to users; and, of course, for enthusiasts,” they explained.
“Our stretch goal is to double this number of donations. If 4000 people donate just 5 or 10 euros each month, then we intend to grow the team, and dedicate them to helping other projects in the GnuPG ecosystem. One project that we really want to contribute to is GPGTools, which many activists and journalists rely on to secure their online communication. We want to make sure that GPG integration in Apple’s mailer is supported as soon as a new version of macOS is released.”