GitHub is adding the ability for developers to accept recurring monthly payments from supporters, who can fund their work on open-source software. The feature, called GitHub Sponsors, works exactly like Patreon. Developers can offer various funding tiers that come with different perks, and they’ll receive recurring payments from supporters who want to access them and encourage their work.
Bringing this model to GitHub could be a huge addition for developers of open-source software. By its nature, developing open-source software — which anyone can freely use — isn’t profitable, but open-source software is critical to much of the tech we use every day, from the core of Android to small tools embedded inside larger programs. Developers can already turn to Patreon or other funding platforms to raise money, but building this tool directly into GitHub, the leading repository for open-source software, could make that even easier for them.
At launch, the sponsorship feature won’t be available to everyone. But GitHub, which is owned by Microsoft, very much wants the program to make a splash: it’s promising zero fees to use the program, it’s covering payment processing costs for the first year, and it’ll be matching sponsorship payments up to $5,000 per developer during their first year using the feature.
Individual projects will also be able to use Sponsors to raise money. A project’s admin can link to profiles of project leaders who accept sponsorships, and GitHub will even let a project link out to funding pages on other websites, like Patreon and Open Collective.
Patreon has proven to be a workable business model for small artists, developers, and development collectives. It may be a challenge for that to extend directly to GitHub, where a developer’s contributions can be less obvious to people who don’t know a thing about code. But it’s a big and meaningful attempt anyway, and it could lead to a much richer open source world if it works out.
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