In a new foundation we trust: Rust programming language to continue under fresh org

Rust

The Rust team already hinted at some changes, but now it’s official: the programming language will get its own foundation by the end of the year. 

Discussions about creating such an entity have been going on for a while already, with members of the core team and the extended community pointing out the need again in their end of year posts in 2019. The main reasons largely concerned the funding of the project and outreach initiatives ranging from events to marketing activities to increase reach.

Indeed, those “legal and financial needs” also feature in the announcement post stating the project has “reached a point where it’s difficult to operate without a legal name, address, and bank account”. The piece’s publication however seems to be sparked by Mozilla’s recent commercial reorientation, which went hand in hand with a string of layoffs that have also hit the Rust team. 

Rust was originally created at Mozilla, which stayed a “prominent and consistent financial and legal sponsor” even when the language established independent governance in 2015. 

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The now disclosed agenda of having a first iteration of a Rust foundation up and running by the end of the year is supposed to address new concerns voiced by Rust users and those further from the core, while clarifying the current project setup. According to the post, “many Mozilla employees in Rust leadership contributed to Rust in their personal time, not as a part of their job” which means that those who’ve been let go will continue to be project members. 

However, since they might be busy looking for something else to get food on the table and might therefore scale back their contributions, the team also points out that part of Rust’s strength lies in the diversity of its leaders’ and contributors’ employers. Setting up an independent foundation will surely help to emphasize this fact.

What the next steps are going to look like will be driven by a foundation project group, who also spoke to “key members and directors from other foundations” in the run-up to the announcement to get a better idea about opportunities and snares. One of those might be coming up with enough sponsors to bankroll the operation.

In the last two years, sponsorship has been a big topic for the project whose infrastructure has since been supported by donations from a variety of companies such as Microsoft, ARM, AWS, and Google Cloud. But as has been pointed out before, infrastructure isn’t the only resource needed to make Rust a success and even the foundation’s first official goal of “taking ownership” of domains and trademarks and moving them to the foundation will incur some cost. 

It will therefore be interesting to see if a dedicated non-profit can help make more beneficiaries open their wallets to finance additional workforce and outreach measures to spread the word.

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