Who is funding Hypothes.is?
Hypothes.is is funded through donations and has chosen an interesting way to get money as an open source project. It was founded through Kickstarter on the 13 of November 2011. Although some of the code already existed prior to the campaign, the project truly took off after it. Hypothes.is' states on the Kickstarter page:
The project until now has been self-funded, but in order to deliver a working prototype, we need to bring in funding to feed our developers and cover basic administrative costs. $100,000 will allow us to get started.
It is noteworthy, that Hypothes.is barely made it by being funded 106%, reaching the goal just a few hours before the deadline. Also the distribution of donors is interesting, as nearly half of the money was given by four people donating $10.000. A few days before the deadline they announced that every dollar donated through Kickstarter would be doubled by another donor. Thereby giving Hypothes.is more than $200.000 through the campaign.
Hypothes.is is not only backed up by the Kickstarter campaign. As stated on the donor page some foundations are supporting it, namely The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Shuttleworth Foundation and The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
It is still possible to donate to the project here, but the numbers are not public.
Hypothes.is defines its need for donations as following:
We’re a non-profit. This aligns our interests with those that directly benefit from what we do, and we feel strongly that it’s the structure best suited to our vision. Our long term strategy is one of revenue sustainability, not charity, but it will take us a few years to get there.
How does this affect the community?
Hypothes.is needs money to operate and thus will the people giving the money always have some kind of influence on the project. This said I have not experienced any direct interference by Hypothes.is' donors. This may be mainly caused by the way the money is given to Hypothes.is. The very definition of donation is that you do not expect anything in return. However it can't be denied that Hypothes.is has to please its donors to ensure continuing support. Here it helps that Hypothes.is has defined 12 principles it complies to. It can be used as a common ground between Hypothes.is and the donors and it concisely sums up what Hypothes.is stands for.
Reading through the comments of the backers on Kickstarter and the websites of the foundations it looks like they support Hypothes.is because they believe in the cause, more than they try to get a concrete measurable gain. This reflects the Hypothes.is community. All the people I have been able to talk to work on Hypothes.is because they believe in the tool and that it can change the way the internet works today.
One of the foundations, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation describes their motivation for their support as following:
[We support Hypothes.is because it] fills a pressing need for web-native mechanisms for peer review. For much of what’s published online, a comment box might not be the most effective mechanism for feedback, and so we’re particularly pleased to support experimentation with more granular, inline annotation for debate, discussion, and the advancement of knowledge.
Hypothes.is related to the greater ecosystem
Hypothes.is is a small project compared to the whole ecosystem of open source software. However it proofs that it is possible to run an open source project as a non profit. It has an impressive line-up of known advisers and collaborators. If Hypothes.is truly becomes popular it will be a game-changer on how the internet works as it enables free and unfiltered comments on every available page on the internet. Free speech and democratization of the internet is the vision of Hypothes.is. However it is still a long way to get there, and it is still too early to tell if Hypothes.is can stand the critical look of actual users.
Hypothes.is has been very successful in getting funding. It is still in closed beta, so it has showed no real traction and still it has some strong backers, including a successful Kickstarter campaign. Only time can tell if it can live up to its expectations, but the list of advisers and collaborators points into a positive direction. It would be exaggerated to say that Hypothes.is affects the greater ecosystem, but it has shown that there is room for a non-profit, open source project that tries to solve a problem even the biggest companies have failed at (see Google Sidewiki, Webklipper or awesomehighlighter to name a few discontinued projects).
Retrospectively, I think that Hypothes.is chosen financial model works very well. They have found a way to communicate the project they believe in to others that back it up so it can become a reality. Their goal to reach three million dollars in funding over the coming years seems ambitious but not unrealistic. Hypothes.is has no numbers on their website, but a look at the blog shows that new supporters are added regularly.