Facebook becomes Blender's corporate patron
Friday, November 20, 2020 | Written by Jim Thacker
Facebook is the newest major tech company to support open source 3D applications Blender, and is joining AMD, Epic Games, Nvidia and Unity Technologies as Patron of the Blender Development Fund.
The company, which provides Blender integrations for its Spark AR Studio augmented reality toolset, donates at least $ 120,000 per year to develop Blender. This equates to two salaries for full-time developers.
Facebook is the fifth tech giant to become Blender's corporate patron
The news makes Facebook the fifth major tech company to patronize the Blender Development Fund since rival Epic Games donated $ 1.2 million last summer.
As with corporate patrons AMD, Nvidia, and Unity Technologies, Facebook's contribution of at least $ 120,000 / year equals the salaries of two other full-time Blender developers.
In August of this year, the Blender Development Fund achieved its original goal of € 100,000 / month: enough to pay the salaries of 20 full-time core developers.
Since then, the fund has grown an additional € 10,000 / month, and was € 116,416 / month at the time of writing.
"Surprising but super cool news"
In a tweet, Blender Foundation chairman Ton Roosendaal described Facebook's donation as "surprising" but "super cool".
One reason for the surprise is that, unlike the other corporate patrons, the social media giant is not primarily known for making 3D software or the hardware it requires.
Although the company acquired groundbreaking virtual reality headset developer Oculus in 2014 and then developed the VR art tools Quill and Medium, it sold Medium to Adobe last year.
That year, however, Facebook released Blender integrations for Spark AR Studio, the free augmented reality toolset that can be used to create AR experiences and share them on Facebook or Instagram.
The official statement from the Blender Foundation states: "To support these artists and the myriad others who rely on open source tools, Facebook wants to contribute to the development of Blender."
The most controversial company patron of the Blender Development Fund to date?
The news has received a lot of positive and negative feedback on social media.
While every corporate patron has generated comments from Blender users who are concerned that their donation will unduly affect future development of the software, the debate with Facebook is particularly fierce.
For the full range of opinions, see the responses to the Blender Foundation's tweet announcing the news.
A fairly balanced comment goes in part: "Historically, Facebook has been bad for privacy, bad for open source, and bad for our independent communities, but I understand the need for funding."
It is important, however, to distinguish between the potential reputational damage for Blender and accepting funding from an organization whose business practices many users dislike, and the fear that Facebook – or other large corporate donors – might somehow "take over" Blender.
The Twitter thread embedded below explains in a nutshell why the terms of the open source GPL license under which Blender is distributed make the latter vanishingly unlikely:
Ok let's go through this. One. More. Time…
Your favorite open source projects won't get corrupted or closed or sold out or whatever else you want to fear, and here's why!
– Luca Rood (@LucaRood) July 30, 2020
Ton Roosendaal commented, "This will in no way change our mission to stay free / open source and support a better web that serves all of humanity."
Read the Blender Foundation announcement that Unity has supported the Blender Development Fund
Tags: AMD, AR, Augmented Reality, Blender, Blender Development Fund, Company Patron, Epic Games, Facebook, Facebook supports Blender Development Fund, Instagram, Medium, NVIDIA, Oculus, Open Source, Spring, Social Media, Spark AR Studio, Unity Technologies , virtual reality, VR