Today, on behalf of the Rust Core team, I’m excited to announce the Rust Foundation, a new independent non-profit organization to steward the Rust programming language and ecosystem, with a unique focus on supporting the set of maintainers that govern and develop the project. The Rust Foundation will hold its first board meeting tomorrow, February 9th, at 4pm CT. The board of directors is composed of 5 directors from our Founding member companies, AWS, Huawei, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla, as well as 5 directors from project leadership, 2 representing the Core Team, as well as 3 project areas: Reliability, Quality, and Collaboration.
This marks a huge step in the growth of Rust on several axes; not the least of which, a formal, financial commitment from a set of global industry leading companies, heralding Rust’s arrival as an enterprise production-ready technology. I am personally moved, and motivated, by the sense of responsibility that comes from this commitment. Our founding sponsors’ eager and enthusiastic participation is not only a promise to maintain and sustain Rust as what it is today, but an endorsement of Rust’s values and a dedication to share the responsibility of cultivating the future that Rust aspires to.
Mozilla, the original home of the Rust project, has transferred all trademark and infrastructure assets, including the crates.io package registry, to the Rust Foundation. We’re filled with gratitude for Mozilla whose thoughtful incubation of the project from its inception as a research project in 2010, to establishing independent governance with the 1.0 release in 2015, has led us to this moment, as we set out as a fully independent organization. Without their support, we wouldn’t find ourselves in the position we do today.
Over the last decade, Rust, the programming language, has been a barrier-breaking technology- deconstructing previously assumed-immovable tradeoffs and binary oppositions. Slogans like “concurrency without data races”, “memory safety without garbage collection”, and ultimately “hack without fear”, speak to the perspective-challenging character of Rust’s unique marriage of academic research and industry practicality. But to suggest that Rust’s impact is solely technical would be to miss a majority of the story. As a flurry of blog posts from community leaders discussed in 2016: Rust’s product is not a programming language or a compiler. Rust’s product is the experience of being a Rust developer and it follows that Rust’s website declares its official slogan: “A language empowering everyone to build reliable and efficient software”.
However, I’ve always taken the opportunity to editorialize this with the original version I penned in 2018 and recently reiterated in my portion of the RustConf 2020 keynote: “A language empowering everyone, but especially folks who thought that systems programming wasn’t for them.” One of the most powerful driving forces of the Rust project is the simultaneous belief in the power of systems programming and the commitment to ensuring that such power is wieldable by everyone. The accessibility at the heart of Rust’s message of empowerment has motivated every part of the project, from first class package management and developer toolchain, to the culture of excellent error messages and documentation, to international event organizers and translators, to the code of conduct and moderation team.
But Rust is so much more than a programming language and a community- Rust also represents a new, radical, way to collaborate on open source projects. The decision making power within the Rust project is uniquely delegated and distributed; with the core team holding little more privilege than other more specialized teams. Rust counts more than 100 team members as leaders in the design and maintenance of the project, shepherding nearly 6000 contributors to the rust-lang/rust repo alone since the project’s first release. Through Rust’s RFC process, more than 1000 people have made nearly 500 decisions that represent the most critical and strategic product and design decisions for the project. Guiding principles like “no new rationale” ensure that these conversations happen fully in the open, giving operational teeth to the fundamental beliefs of the project: that a plurality of voices is better than one; that collaboration is not zero-sum; that we are stronger, and smarter, as a group than alone.
Rust believes that the ability of anyone to participate in the design and development of Rust is a mission critical aspect of building a language and ecosystem that is truly accessible to everyone. And the potential of such a system has bore fruit: It is not a mistake that such a promising technology has emerged from such a progressive conception of collaboration. But such a system comes at a cost; a cost that is too often invisible and thus unaccounted for. For too long, open source as both an industry and a community has done a poor audit of its expenses. Notably, ignoring the price of what I’d controversially argue is the core value proposition of open source software: the freedom to collaborate.
Starting several decades ago, open source foundations were established to cultivate the use of open source software in commercial organizations large and small. Today, as we announce the Rust Foundation, we build on the incredible success of their mission: We no longer need to evangelize the use of open source software to the largest and most influential players in our industry; we can assume it. Our challenge is a new one, one that emerges from that accomplishment- we need to support and prepare our maintainers and open governance structures to support what promises to be a period of record breaking growth and adoption. The Rust Foundation seeks to center and stabilize the experiences of the amazing people who are responsible for making Rust what it is today, and to generalize and establish a healthier maintainer experience and ecology.
Today is an incredibly exciting moment for Rust. I wrote my first (still publicly available) lines of Rust nearly 5 years ago and it’s amazing to see how far we have come and the promise of how far we might go. Our founding members represent a 2 year commitment to a more than million dollar yearly budget to develop services, programs, and events that will support the Rust project maintainers in building the best possible Rust, and we’ve only just begun. To learn more about the project, our organization, and becoming a member, please visit foundation.rust-lang.org.