Can Gitcoin be doing more to support Ethereum Protocol Devs?

Hey all,

Ethereum Protocol Development is a public good, and it’s possibly the closest one to the ecosystem that gave Gitcoin life.

Because Ethereum Protocol Development makes a secure, reliable, and performant Layer 1 possible, it is the foundation of the entire Ethereum ecosystem.

Here is a photoshopped xkcd comic that iillustrates this point. All of the Ethereum ecosystem rests on these public goods.
UCY4NV3OYFCKFCVIJNQDBZDMBE

This infrastructure is considered by many to be underfunded. Here is a graph from @vbuterin 's article The Most Important Scarce Resource is Legitimacy which shows the relative amount spent on R&D (Protocol Development) relative to PoW spending (spending on security)

Anyway, this came to a boiling point last week. I’m not sure if you all saw, but over the last days a debate has resurfaced around protocol developer compensation, burnout, and retainment issues in the Ethereum ecosystem.

This conversation is of course relevant to us, because our mission is to build and fund digital public goods.

We actually started off in Gitcoin Grants Round 1 funding the Ethereum ecosystem, and grew that heavily from Round 1 to Round 7. Around Round 7, we started scaling out to Gitcoin Grants Side Rounds and Gitcoin Aqueduct .

As the debate around Ethereum Protocol Dev Comp was brought up, there was some constructive criticism around Gitcoin’s offering that I think is worth taking seriously. The debates were not about Gitcoin, they are about creating a better outcome for protocol devs (which retains them), but I do think the commentary about us and our offering towards that goal is worth taking seriously.

I want to invite the Gitcoin community to participate in the above debates.

Here is my prompt: Ethereum Protocol Development is a public good, and it’s possibly the closest one to the ecosystem that gave Gitcoin life. Can Gitcoin be doing more to support Ethereum Protocol Devs?

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This is a really important conversation and particularly timely as I’ve been starting to talk to some matching funders about supporting a core infrastructure round in GR14.

In the earliest days of Gitcoin Grants, during the depths of the bear market, most of our top grantees were working on relatively unknown projects that over time the entire ecosystem would come to benefit from. A few that come to mind include:

Many of these projects are well known and well loved (for good reason) today.


As the ecosystem grew, however, a larger percentage of projects focused on applications and community initiatives, and although the pool size expanded, the share of funds available to infrastructure projects stayed constant and even began to shrink.

To be sure, so many of these were great projects in their own right including:


The amounts all of the projects raised weren’t in the seven, eight, or even nine figure range that we’re seeing many folks raise at today, but they were meaningful at a time when very few people believed in what Ethereum could become and what it could mean for internet-native coordination and collaboration.

In turn, thanks to not just our work but the work of many others like Ecosystem Support these projects survived the bear market. Unfortunately, however, the bull market gains for those building in the application and community layers was, on average, far greater than those building core infrastructure. Over time, more and more infrastructure builders moved on to do far more rewarding work in the emerging DeFi and NFT spaces.

Naturally, those who stayed behind have not had the same bull market as many folks reading this.

So, if we want to take the idea of retroactive public goods funding seriously, which I believe we should, then the value those who helped build our ecosystem receive should be commensurate with the value they’ve added. And in that light, we should look carefully at exactly how much we all owe to the core infrastructure right underneath us.

With that said, I’d welcome any support in making a core infrastructure round happen, and recommend we do our best to ensure that we’re paying our respects to those that continue to do the hard work even in the face of endless opportunities for short term gains.

Let’s continue to support the future we want to see. Public goods are good.

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Say more about what a core infrastructure round would look like? Perhaps its a deeply funded QF pool with tight criteria (you must work on protocol level R&D or on a client team) that goes live in GR14?

I don’t want to be too prescriptive, but I think it should be relatively tightly scoped, and likely something done in tandem with a broader group of ecosystem stakeholders (e.g. I would highly trust Danny Ryan’s opinion on what protocol level R&D has been most underfunded).

Maybe some folks in PGF can start by bringing a trusted group together to help curate the list?

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That sounds good to me.

A primary question I think to ask early is: Are matching funders keen to fund Ethereum protocol development? How big of a matching pool could GitcoinDAO raise for such a round in GR14?

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I love this idea. Without dropping an exact number, I think there would be significant demand to fund a big ecosystem pool for core developers.

I feel like in the early days a lot of Gitcoin Grants was focused on protocol work, it has since grown a lot and maybe strayed away from that.

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I am curious if we have looked at what % of funds have historically gone to some of the core dev projects to date. I am interested in ensuring that core devs are funded, but this feels like a call to action without enough data to inform next steps.

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Looking at the list @ceresstation just mentioned. We’ve used many of those on Gitcoin projects.
Be it protocols / libraries which aren’t a web3 product but instead a foundation layer that folks in the ecosystem to wire in.

While I’m making this comment without checking out the data → These infra projects have lesser profits / revenue than a traditional dApp. And if dev of those came to a halt → projects would suffer.

As an open source dev who’s used these projects for BUDIL-ing.
I would def be excited to see us support these projects by experimenting with an infra round

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here is historical grants + round data from GR1-GR12 if anyone wants to do the analysis @kyle is requesting.

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Thank you Kevin for bringing this to discussion to the forum and others for participating here. This is something I’m very passionate about, and would love to see a dedicated pool in GR14.

We’re looking to address some of the problems mentioned, + a few more:

  • effective curation of a demographic that doesn’t always have a grant profile (or stops promoting it)
  • general core development funding
  • general awareness of how many people work on the protocol - many people only think “Geth” when asked about clients, in reality there’s an order of magnitude more than that single team
  • sharing upside from the app layer with maintainers thru tokens
  • incentivizing long-term contributions through vesting

I’m building the Protocol Guild with 100 other members: researchers, client maintainers, upgrade coordinators, Solidity contributors, and more! The membership spans 21 different teams from 9 independent organizations. Here’s a high level summary:

a vested split contract which distributes donated assets to a weighted list of Ethereum protocol contributors, self-curated by its membership. The primary goals: to provide autonomous tools for recruitment, retention, and reward to the protocol and its maintainers. If desired, individuals can forward their allocation to a charity.

Some resources for people to learn more:

We have a grant for Protocol Guild but as I mentioned in the tweet linked above, there is a ton of competition from things I wouldn’t really consider aiming for any public benefit.

We’d love to talk about how our membership can provide any guidance to a possible “Core Protocol” GR14 side round!

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one key thing to note is that the vast majority of client teams & core contributors don’t have profiles on Gitcoin - which makes it hard to funnel resources to them through matching rounds. (see my other comment above for how the Protocol Guild attempts to tackle that!)

One possibility I wanted to throw out is that there could be a deeply funded QF pool that only Protocol Guild is in (alongside the Main round).

Alternatively, an application process for core devs to apply to a deeply funded QF pool, possibly informed by the EF regarding eligibility and criteria.

I would also agree with many voices above that this is one of the most important public goods concerns in the space. Ethereum core devs are what the entire ecosystem depends upon.

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Appreciate the support! While the Guild does have a very broad membership (and growing weekly), there are still some areas we haven’t expanded our curation into: libraries, solidity tooling, ethereum infra community projects (eg. ethstaker, archivenode.io, Otterscan).

I think these existing Gitcoin Grant participants should also be eligible for a side round of this type, were it to be included in GR14.

I will think more about how weighting should play a role with matching funds, given the PG grant will represent +100 contributors, and some of the other grants are low single digit contributors.

Very happy to see Gitcoin considering something like this. I’ll echo Trent that I think protocol guild is a great candidate for something like this, and can likely provide more comprehensive (or at the very least, complementary) curation than the existing grants, which only cover a subset of clients.

When talking with potential funders for the protocol guild, one thing that came up frequently was that they’d like to donate to “classes” of projects, e.g. client devs, tooling/libraries, programming languages, etc. so having some granularity at that level can help them direct their donations. Beyond that, though, it seemed hard for them to make an educated judgement on how funds should be split more granularly. Hopefully PG can solve this for client devs+researchers, and eventually expand (or have others come and create!) to provide a similar thing for libraries, languages, etc.

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as GR14 approaches, what’s the best way to continue moving forward on this?

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That’d be awesome to see, maybe we could even in theory have this be a Protocol Guild round of sorts? I’d love to see this curated by a group with full context into the current funding core devs are getting and I do think the folks you have there would be an awesome fit.

Very happy to see Gitcoin considering something like this. I’ll echo Trent that I think protocol guild is a great candidate for something like this, and can likely provide more comprehensive (or at the very least, complementary) curation than the existing grants, which only cover a subset of clients.

TL;DR +1 on this for sure @timbeiko

In terms of following up on next steps, maybe we could start with a Telegram group if that’s easiest for folks?

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Works with me. I’m @timbeiko there too :slight_smile: