Rust core dev launches RFC to spin language into a foundation

Rust could spin itself into a foundation of its own this year, after core developer Nicholas Matsakis “offhandedly” raised the idea in a blogpost late last year.

The language was developed at Mozilla and unveiled in 2010, and is community managed and governed through RFCs.

However, this will only get you so far, and Matsakis fleshed out a rationale for setting up a foundation in a followup post this week, highlighting two key reasons for the effort. He also suggested a foundation could be set up as early as this year.

Matsakis said setting up a foundation would, “help clarify Rust’s status as an independent project, and thus encourage investment from more companies”. Second is “to alleviate some practical problems caused by Rust not having a “legal entity” nor a dedicated bank account.”

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On the first point, Matsakis notes that there is “sometimes a lingering perception that Mozilla “owns” Rust, which can discourage companies from getting invested, or create the perception that there is no need to support Rust since Mozilla is footing the bill.”

A foundation would make “official what has been true in practice for a long time: that Rust is an independent project.” It would also make it easier for companies “who would like to support Rust financially…Creating a foundation creates a place where that support can be directed.”

Which feeds into the second point. While Mozilla had helped out on legal issues, for example, “the Rust project has started to hit the limits of what Mozilla can reasonably support.” Getting even more practical, he continued, “we wished recently to sign up for Github’s Token Scanning program, but we weren’t able to figure out who ought to sign the contract.” The same problem hamstrings efforts to run or support events, as there is no way of handling funds, etc, on Rust’s behalf.

He also lists some things a foundation shouldn’t do, including hiring developers, at least in the foreseeable future. Likewise, “I think the foundation should not pay for local meetups nor sponsor Rust conferences.

At the same time, he said, “the foundation should not replace the existing Rust teams as a decision-making apparatus.” Rather, it “is to complement the teams and to help us in achieving our goals. It is not to set the goals themselves.” Which latter point, again marks an interesting slip into the present tense.

So, for now, he suggests, “The traditional way that the Rust project makes decisions, of course, is through RFCs, and I think that a decision to create a foundation should be no exception. In fact, I do plan to open an RFC about creating a foundation soon. However, I don’t expect this RFC to try to spell out all the details of how a foundation would work. Rather, I plan to propose creating a project group with the goal of answering those questions.”

Where will this lead? Who knows. Last year the openSUSE community debated whether to reconstitute itself as a community – a debate that quickly resulted in a vote over whether a name change would be necessary. The community decided it wasn’t.

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