With an estimated 1.8 million downloads, MultiBit is easily the most popular bitcoin wallet client for Windows-based machines. Recently, however, a series of high-profile glitches and seemingly dismissive developer comments have soured community support for the three-year old software project. With a new version of the software nearing completion, the “cash-strapped” developers have proposed a highly controversial funding plan: Charge a per-transaction fee.
According to CoinDesk’s Danny Bradbury, MultiBit programmers are calling the idea the idea the “Burton-Rowe Income Technique (BRIT),” after developers Gary Rowe and Jim Burton.
The wallet will in future charge 1,000 satoshis per spend. That’s about half a cent at today’s price. Put another way, said Rowe, 800 bitcoin transactions made through MultiBit will earn the developers a latte.”
With the next version of the wallet, MultiBit HD, due out soon, the eight-developer team hopes that users will simply update the client without worrying about the new charges. Until the current announcement, MultiBit’s software had been based on a donation model. The development team has made roughly 1.8 BTC a month from donations, a humble reward considering how popular their program is. To date, MultiBit has only earned about 50 BTC from user donations, requiring all members of the team to work other jobs.
But will MultiBit still prove as popular when users are forced to pay to use it? Even at less than half a cent per transaction, the idea of paying to use a bitcoin wallet could prove cause many to switch to another program, such as Armory or Electrum. Rowe, however, doesn’t seem too concerned.
“That’s such a speck of dust that the vast majority won’t even notice it,” [Rowe] said. Indeed, this is below the official dust threshold, meaning that the wallet has to wait for a user to make several transactions before it can bundle them up and send the developers an amount. “But to us, because we’re able to aggregate that tiny fee, that gives us enough money to sustain development.”
Rowe also said that should the fees provide “excess funds” (he didn’t elaborate on what this level would be), the team would donate some of its earnings to the software libraries MultiBit was built upn.