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Re: Tor Project 2008 Tax Return Now Online
On Tue, Aug 17, 2010 at 09:05:27AM -0700, Julie C wrote:
> On Mon, Aug 16, 2010 at 10:31 PM, Gregory Maxwell <gmaxwell@xxxxxxxxx>wrote:
> > This is neither fair nor reasonable.
> > When Wikimedia broke into the top _10_ most popular sites, with
> > something like 100 million unique viewers in a month the annual income
> > was comparable to the tor project. It only broke 1m in fundraising at
> > the very end of 2007. It takes time to scale up an organization so
> > that it is able to spend large amounts of money in an efficient and
> > responsible way.
> > The Free Software Foundation 2008 990 reflects 1m in income and the
> > FSF has been around for 25 years and supports many initiatives.
> > Mozilla Foundation's 2008 990 reflects 1.2m in income (this isn't the
> > whole story, Mozilla's finances are greatly complicated).
> Wow. This is news to me, which I probably should have reviewed before my
> post, to get more perspective. Thanks for offering it up, Gregory.
> However, I see that there is a fundamental, relevant difference here between
> the Tor Project and Wikimedia, FSF, and Mozilla Foundation. Who needs them?
> What is their value to the institutions who have money? Governments, law
> enforcement, military, enterprises, media, and others. I would speculate the
> Tor Project (and you) probably thinks of itself as similar to these 3 other
> organizations. But why not think of themselves as much more than them?
> That's my controversial point here.
> They are much more than a homeless shelter too, for example. They are much
> more than a friggin database, and yet what was MySQL bringing in before it
> sold for $1B to Sun about 3 years ago? Tor is much more than an operating
> system, and yet how much has IBM and Oracle and others poured into Linux
> over the years?
Since you're (rightly) not worried about stepping on some toes, I'll
do likewise: You have given at least part of a response about FSF
since from both a code and a community/culture standpoint there
probably would not be a linux without them. And firefox serves as a
platform (from testing through to deployment) for lots of security
ideas that would not be where they are without Mozilla. Also, it is
much easier for IBM and Oracle to understand the RoI in linux than for
such players, qua corporate position, to see the RoI in Tor, but even
that still occurred over years of footdragging, hedging bets, etc.
> I apologize for hurting feelings on this point. But this issue is much more
> important than that as well. I have listened to and followed Roger and
> Andrew and Nick and others over the years, enough to know they are all top
> quality guys.
> But from an organizational, big picture view, I think it is clearly time for
> them to bring in some evangelical fundraisers to move the Project forward.
> There is a great base to build on. There is a great story to tell. But think
> about it this way - how far is the Project going to go, how successful will
> it be, with the inspirational leaders spending most of their time fixing
> bugs, doing commits, living in the code, and such.
I have been evangelizing versions of onion routing including Tor to
VCs etc. since before we started calling this version Tor. My
experience is that if they want to put serious money in (or sometimes
not even), they want to be able to generate revenue from that in a
short period of time, perhaps a few years. Similarly for other sources
of funding even if they aren't expecting direct immediate financial
return but are not paying for prototypes, research, and improvements
to what's there now; although the story changes somewhat in each
case. They may not be looking for financial return, but they have
unrealistic expectations about what would happen if they abruptly
threw lots of money at someone or added fifty percent to the
infrastructure at once. When you describe ways that things could
improve with an investment in the 50K USD to a million range, they
become less interested. They actually seem to prefer to hear promises
to roll out whatever random stuff from someone who would be happy to
get an instant ginormous influx of cash or adopt their plans to put a
thousand new nodes up from their corporate network.
There are little ways in which big entities are funding Tor or working
on collaborating. And it would be good for that to expand and
improve. Also, if someone (or better, several distinct someones) were
to double Tor's funding over two years, that would be great, but my
guess is that if anyone were to throw a tenfold jump in funding at the
Tor Project, Inc. all at once right now, the result would be
profoundly disappointing and frustrating for both the Tor Project and
the funder. And probably damaging to the Tor Project in the long
run. Similar comments if some one entity wanted to contribute, e.g.,
300 fast nodes to the network at once (except add that there would be a
swift major reduction in security). I am pleased that when I
brought Roger on he had the right balance of interests between making
good stuff (and documenting that), deploying it, and selling it. And
this balance has continued with choices that he and now Andrew and
others have made. Tor _has_ a development director (Hi Karen), and
while more (and more diverse) development and funding are important, I
don't share your view that they are way off of where they should
be. And, just to be clear, the opinions I have just given are my
own. I'm not speaking for the Tor Project or anyone else but me. My
nutshell statement in that regard is I'm not from the Tor Project, the
Tor Project is from me.
> Also if you are challenging me to speak up, well here I am, and here I will
> continue to be. Personally I am also looking at what part of the Tor
> software I can work on myself as part of my upcoming thesis term at school
Please continue to speak up. And, I'm sure you've looked at
https://www.torproject.org/volunteer.html.en for starting ideas for
things to work on, and then discussing your prospective ideas with
the right people, e.g., on IRC.
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