The move marks a new stage in Rust’s growth as an open source project with support from several big tech companies.
Rust, the ever-more-popular programming language with some of the largest usage growth in the past year, has officially become an independent, foundation-backed, open source project with the formation of the new Rust Foundation.
The foundation was conceived as “an 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,” it said on its website.
Rust isn’t going at it alone, either: It’s getting major support from five big tech companies, namely Microsoft, Huawei, Google, AWS, and the original Rust incubator Mozilla. Along with adding considerable financial backing to the future of Rust, said interim executive director Ashley Williams, backing from major industry companies also ” herald[s] Rust’s arrival as an enterprise production-ready technology.”
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As TechRepublic sister site ZDNet pointed out, before the founding of the Rust Foundation, Rust was not a distinct legal entity and fell under Mozilla’s purview. The Rust team was unable to sign contracts, establish bank accounts to manage partner funds, and had no control over Rust’s package management system, crates.io.
The Rust Foundation now has control over all of Rust’s trademark and infrastructure assets, including crates.io. “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,” Williams said.
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Rust is similar in syntax to C++, but has increased memory safety that can eliminate memory-related security flaws, making it a fast-rising star in the system development realm. In 2017, Mozilla replaced 160,000 lines of C++ with 85,000 lines of Rust to boost performance of its Servo browser engine, Google has announced plans to replace the C-based code in the SSL module of Apache HTTP web server with a Rust-based TLS module, and Microsoft has built a Rust/WinRT that could completely replace the C++/WinRT in the future.
Microsoft’s Azure Pipelines team previously covered Rust’s continuous integration costs, and Microsoft’s member of the Rust Foundation board, Nell Shamrell-Harrington, said that the company considers Rust a close partner in the future of its software. “As Rust usage in Microsoft grows, we know it is not enough to only use it as open source software. We must also contribute back to it. Joining the Rust Foundation is a way for us to financially support the project, contribute back to the project, and engage more deeply with the Rust community,” Shamrell-Harrington said. Microsoft will continue to support the Rust Foundation by building its own in-house Rust team that will contribute to the Rust compiler, core tooling, documentation, and more.
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Rust has had a progressive, open, and accessible collaboration framework that Williams said is a key component of its rapid climb from version 1.0, released only six years ago, to today’s independent foundation and widespread use by major tech companies.
“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 … 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,” Williams said.