MIT Rides to the Rescue of Bitcoin with $900,000 Developer Fund

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / Maltaguy1While private initiatives seek to capitalize on distributed ledger technology, academics are turning their attention to bitcoins.

It’s been an open secret for some time that as blockchain has soared to ever greater heights, bitcoin’s reputation has suffered (though its value as a commodity has held fairly steady this year.)

The Bitcoin Foundation, a not-for-profit founded in 2012 to standardize the bitcoin landscape, is insolvent and seemingly always on the brink of shutting down. The issue of scaling block sizes remains unresolved and toxic. All in all, it seems like bad times for bitcoin.

But the Digital Currency Initiative at the well-heeled Massachusetts Institute of Technology is riding to the rescue with a $900,000 fund for bitcoin developers. From MIT’s release:

The goal of the fund is to cover salaries, travel, and overall support of Bitcoin protocol development efforts, including events like the Scaling Bitcoin workshop series.

Together, we’ve raised $900,000. Donors include companies (BitFury, Bitmain, Chain, Circle, and Nasdaq) and individuals (Jim Breyer, Jim Pallotta, Jeff Tarrant, Reid Hoffman and Fred Wilson).

The DCI launched in April 2015 out of the MIT Media Lab and quickly plucked three developers from the crumbling ruins of the Bitcoin Foundation: Gavin Andresen, Wladimir van der Laan, and Cory Fields. The DCI has three stated goals:

  1. Conduct research and engage more students on digital currency topics that address questions about security, stability, scalability, privacy, and economics.
  2. Convene governments, nonprofits, and the private sector to research and test concepts that have high social impact.
  3. Provide evidence-based research to support existing and future policy and standards.

During that time, efforts such as R3CEV consortium and the Hyperledger Project have taken up the initiative from the Bitcoin Foundation, but they are blockchain-focused. It is noteworthy that The DCI is focused on the Bitcoin protocol — it is not even looking at other cryptocurrencies unless sponsors come in to set up separate funds. It also will not help anyone build their own blockchains, which is where the majority of money and attention currently flow to.

Developers need to be paid, and the bitcoin codebase needs care and attention if it is to survive in a meaningful form.

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