When I first heard of Gittip, I remember being blown away by its implications. The concept that an open source developer could sever ties with the corporate world entirely, and rely instead on the small but consistent contributions of the community which they support is very powerful.
If this takes off, no longer will the direction of projects important to the community as a whole be dictated by corporate sponsors with their own internal agenda. Re-organizations and changes in leadership would not threaten an important and potentially revolutionary project with the loss of the vast majority of their funding. This is still exciting to me, and I sincerely hope that I will one day be able to point to my small involvement in Gittip as an example to my children of where individual contributions can change the world.
Even so, in watching the discussion around the project on Github and elsewhere, I've begun to realize that this is much, much bigger than changing the economy of open source.
Gittip is poised to change the world.
It's easy, as a developer, to point to examples within the community of fairly well-known individuals who contribute greatly without that activity being their primary source of income. Some have corporate benefactors (see Kenneth Reitz of Heroku and John Resig of Khan Academy - funded by Google and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), some work day jobs and make contributions during a portion of their time, and some work entirely on their own, outside their day jobs. These people need a means of support, and with the support of the community, Gittip can be that means.
We are only one community, though. How about musicians? Are there people out there creating source files and distributing them for free? Writers? Architects? My wife makes hairbows, and has built a moderately successful and growing business from it. She learned much of that skill from tutorials written by forum members in her world, and from YouTube. Who funds those people? What motivates them to keep creating? More importantly - what would the world be like if every tiny community had a small core of people whose primary job was the advancement of the things that community cares about?
There isn't a community in existence that wouldn't benefit from these people having more time and energy to expend on what they wanted.
In my opinion, capturing this energy across multiple verticals is the path to the future for Gittip. We need to raise awareness in countless commmunities, to show that this platform will allow people to make small and individually insignificant contributions that will, when combined with others in their community, create a very real and very significant benefit to the lives of the people who care about what they care about.