On Thursday ProPublica published the frustrating tale of Werner Koch, the one guy – yes really – who’s maintaining the extremely widely-used Gnu Privacy Guard (GnuPG or GPG) software that people use to encrypt their email messages and digitally authenticate downloadable programs such as the Tor Browser.
As the article revealed, Germany-based Koch was raising around $25,000 a year for his work, not enough for someone supporting a wife and kid. A crowdfunding campaign he began in December had only pulled in $43,000 – way less than he needed to employ a second full-time developer for the project. Well, the article worked.
At the time of writing on Friday, that campaign had pulled in over €160,000 ($183,000) from supporters. And that’s not all: Facebook and Stripe will each send $50,000 Koch’s way every year to sustain the project, and the Linux Foundation has also granted him $60,000 (a decision that actually preceded the ProPublica piece.)
The campaign gave Koch, who has an 8-year-old daughter and a wife who isn't working, some breathing room. But when I asked him what he will do when the current batch of money runs out, he shrugged and said he prefers not to think about it. "I'm very glad that there is money for the next three months," Koch said. "Really I am better at programming than this business stuff."
Good work, everyone. Koch’s software is very important, and the fact he’s been maintaining it for so long, for so little reward, is an amazing achievement. Now, with a second developer, he can make it even better. Now let’s see the same support for more privacy-protecting tools: