Robust Rust trust discussed after Moz cuts leave folks nonplussed: Foundation mulled for coding language

Cannot infer an appropriate lifetime, indeed

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Following Mozilla's announcement last week that it would restructure and cut 250 jobs, the Rust Project, which oversees the Rust programming language, on Tuesday said it plans to work with Mozilla to create a Rust foundation by the end of the year.

"Understandably, these layoffs have generated a lot of uncertainty and confusion about the impact on the Rust project itself," the project's spokespeople said in a statement. "Our goal in this post is to address those concerns."

Starting a foundation, or putting a software project under an existing one, is a step that occurs when the code base has reached a level of maturity, adoption, and stability. It's commonly done when projects incubated within commercial companies seek to advertise their independence and neutrality; signals essential to generating enthusiasm from contributors at competing firms and independent developers.

Google's decision not to put its Istio and Knative projects under a neutral foundation like the CNCF, and the ongoing concern in the open source community about that choice, serves as an example of the importance of perception in such matters.

For Rust, there's less concern about the ulterior motives of its corporate patron, given that Mozilla doesn't throw its weight around like Oracle or other tech giants that oversee or contribute to open source projects.

But the Rust project, which only reached its 1.0 release five years ago, remains concerned with being seen as a healthy, evolving endeavor, a prerequisite for corporate adoption and for attracting contributors.

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Rust is being used in services run by 1Password, Cloudflare, Discord, Dropbox, Amazon, and Figma, to name a few, and Microsoft is exploring its use for safer systems programming. Some of these companies are among its corporate sponsors, along with Arm, AWS, Google Cloud, and GitHub.

Demonstrating awareness of the need to operate without the appearance of favoritism or corporate capture, project leaders say that the Rust infrastructure team will work to ensure the project doesn't become dependent on a single sponsor.

The increasing adoption of Rust, perhaps even more than the instability of Mozilla, argues for a sustainable management structure through which contributors, users, and interested parties can address concerns on a level playing field.

"As the project has grown in size, adoption, and maturity, we’ve begun to feel the pains of our success," the Rust project said. "We’ve developed legal and financial needs that our current organization lacks the capacity to fulfill."

A foundation will provide a way to operate that doesn't depend on Mozilla. Its first task, the Rust project says, will be moving the trademarks and domain names associated with Rust, Cargo, and crates.io into the foundation.

Rust was the second-fastest growing programming language in 2019, according to GitHub's State of the Octoverse report. Usage grew 245 per cent, behind only Dart at 532 per cent. ®

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