Tarsnap has given 2^18 dollars to open sourceYesterday I read a great article from Sentry entitled "We Just Gave $500,000 to Open Source Maintainers", and it made me wonder just how much Tarsnap had spent on supporting open source software over the years. Ever since December 2009 Tarsnap has spent 100% of its December operating profits on supporting open source software — which, since needs for support aren't limited to December, means that Tarsnap hands out money throughout the year, and at the end of the year (when I know how much profit Tarsnap made in December) I send whatever is left in the "budget" to the FreeBSD Foundation. Going through 14 years of accounting spreadsheets brought me to a total of $274,482 — or in binary terms, slightly over 2^18 USD.
The largest recipient of this funding every year has been the FreeBSD Foundation, and to date they have received $173,920. It's hard to overstate the importance of the work the Foundation does; they provide hardware which keeps the FreeBSD project running, they fund a myriad of independent projects, and they have full-time developers who get thrown in to fixing whatever needs to be fixed from time to time. While FreeBSD is unusual among open source projects in that the FreeBSD project governance is entirely independent of the FreeBSD Foundation, the FreeBSD project would be immeasurably worse off without the support of the FreeBSD Foundation.
The second largest recipient of support from Tarsnap has been the BSD Now podcast, which has received $47,500 to date. Now at their 529th episode, they fill an important niche in the BSD world, being one of the only places people can hear what's going on across all the BSD operating systems. As developers, we're generally lousy at communication, and while technical journalists (e.g., Phoronix) sometimes report on things happening in the BSD world, they generally lack the technical knowledge to be consistently accurate. BSD Now, being produced by actual developers, bridges the two solitudes.
Third comes BSDCan, which has received $23,188 to date. In addition to being in Canada — which, as a Canadian, I have to admit influences me somewhat — BSDCan is the largest BSD conference in the world and plays an essential role in bringing together developers to discuss and learn about each others' work. Email and IRC are great, but sometimes face-to-face conversations make a huge difference.
Next comes the annual FreeBSD developer summits held at BSDCan. These "piggy back" on BSDCan in the sense that they can take advantage of the fact that BSDCan is already getting a lot of people to travel to one spot — but BSDCan does not pay for the rooms, A/V, coffee, or any of the other miscellaneous costs associated with running a developer summit. Tarsnap has contributed $11,062 to those.
While most of the money Tarsnap contributes to open source software is focused on the BSD world — that's what Tarsnap uses — it does provide funding for an annual award at my Alma Mater for students who contribute to open source software. To date Tarsnap has contributed $7,839 to this.
Finally there's a bunch of miscellaneous sponsorships — conferences, developers, travel grants, etc. — adding up to $10,972. (Or maybe a bit more; there were a lot of these and I might have missed some while I was putting together my list.)
Tarsnap's 2^18 USD of financial support for open source software over the past 14 years is only a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed, and indeed I wish we could contribute more; Tarsnap would not exist without all of the open source software if runs on. On the other hand, maybe it's not a bad total for a two-person company; there are certainly much larger companies which contribute far less.
If you're at a startup which relies heavily on open source software, please take a moment to ask yourself: How much does your company contribute back?