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WhatsApp CEO donates USD $1,000,000 to FreeBSD

The FreeBSD Foundation, creators and maintainers of the free and open sourced FreeBSD operating system, have received a very generous donation of one million dollars from Jan Koum, CEO and founder of WhatsApp, as a sign of appreciation for the code the Foundation shares.

As Jan says in his Facebook post regarding the donation:

“[FreeBSD] has helped millions of programmers pursue their passions and bring their ideas to life. […] I started using FreeBSD in the late 90s, when I didn’t have much money and was living in government housing. In a way, FreeBSD helped lift me out of poverty – one of the main reasons I got a job at Yahoo! is because they were using FreeBSD.”

FreeBSD has not only powered the servers at Yahoo!, but was also running on the backend of the original Hotmail service. It is also the cornerstone on which MacOS X is built, parts of the code have been integrated into Windows (something the FreeBSD license allows), and many other projects, both open and proprietary.

Although “open source operating system” is generally equated with “GNU/Linux”, there are many other less well-known, but vital, open source projects out there. Due to their relative low profiles, they often struggle to make ends meet and have to count on donations to continue existing. When these donations are not forthcoming, the effects can be profound and felt all through the technosphere.

Such was the case of Heartbleed that affected OpenSSL, and, by extension, the whole Internet, costing millions in downtime and work hours to patch the code. It was later revealed that a lack of funding had reduced the number of OpenSSL developers to exactly one person. That’s right, one lone developer was the only human being working full time on a technology that powers practically all secure transactions carried out on the web.

Donations are a vital part of most open a free software projects. Without them, they would collapse and disappear, taking with them enormous chunks out of services we, the users, take for granted.

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