Introducing the FOSS Sustainability Fund Pilot Projects

Maintaining the bedrock of the free and open internet
Wed, 2024-04-10 19:31

We are currently accepting applications for the FOSS Sustainability Fund. Apply by May 17!

Last year, Open Technology Fund announced our newest funding mechanism: The Free and Open Source (FOSS) Sustainability Fund. In December, the Fund kicked off with the introduction of six pilot projects. 

This fund was designed by months of community engagement and research from FOSS projects to better understand what effective funding in long-term sustainability might look like. The ultimate aim of this Fund is to support the long-term maintenance of FOSS projects and the communities that sustain them. The foundations of the free and open internet and communications technology are made up of FOSS projects that are often run by volunteers. Maintenance activities for FOSS projects are under-supported, despite the critical role so many play in creating encrypted messaging, secure internet browsing, and censorship circumvention for at-risk users. Without proper maintenance, the security and reliability of these technologies decay. 

We shaped the pilot round from these learnings, welcoming six projects across different layers of the FOSS ecosystem—from core infrastructure to application layer technology. The goal of having a pilot round, and working closely with the pilot projects (which range in type, size, scale, and audience), is to continue learning and evolve the fund so it is most responsive to community needs. Stay tuned for more blog posts with lessons from the pilot round. 

We’re thrilled to introduce the following six FOSS Sustainability Fund pilot round projects:

Tails: Portable Operating System to Circumvent Censorship & Surveillance

Tails is a portable operating system that protects against surveillance and censorship. It uses the Tor network to protect a user’s privacy online, and leaves no trace on a shut down computer, making it a secure option for users at risk of government surveillance and censorship to access the web. As a pilot project of the FOSS Sustainability Fund, the Tails team will focus on supporting essential day-to-day maintenance, upgrades, and improvements, supporting project management and accounting, acting on user-feedback, and investing in long-term sustainability through simplifying workflows and adding fundraising capacity.

Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI): Measuring Global Censorship

OONI creates software for internet censorship, conducts censorship measurement research and analysis, and openly publishes censorship measurements. The OONI software ecosystem requires ongoing maintenance work to ensure that real-time internet censorship data is collected and published reliably, securely, and at scale. As a pilot project of the FOSS Sustainability Fund, the OONI team will focus on ensuring improved code and data quality, updating dependencies, refactoring code, improving usability/UI, documentation, and infrastructure maintenance of the OONI project.

Mailvelope: Secure Email Communication

Mailvelope is an open-source browser extension designed to securely encrypt emails on webmail providers using OpenPGP standards. Mailvelope originated as an open source project in 2012, and launched its first commercial product, Mailvelope Business, in 2020. As a pilot round of the FOSS Sustainability Fund, the Mailvelope team will focus on: software development and maintenance tasks, usability improvements, expanding the team, enhancing FOSS partnerships, entering the enterprise market, improving support and helpdesk availability, and community building.

DEfO: Implementing the Encrypted ClientHello Mechanism

The DEfO project develops implementations of the encrypted ClientHello (ECH) mechanism for OpenSSL and related applications. ECH enhances the privacy of the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol, which is widely used for secure internet communications. As upstream projects constantly update, the DEfO project must update to ensure continual builds and test deployments. With FOSS Sustainability Fund support, DEfO will maintain and update ECH code, push ECH to more TLS projects, support developers implementing ECH, perform ongoing testing and monitoring, and flexibly respond to emergent challenges.

Reproducible Builds: Safeguarding the Software Development Process

The mission of Reproducible Builds is to ensure the security of the ‘supply chains’ used in open source software and preventing attacks targeting the complex systems that build our shared digital infrastructure. It is a set of software development practices that create an independently-verifiable path from source to binary code. As a pilot project of the FOSS Sustainability Fund, Reproducible Builds is completing important technical improvements, performing day-to-day maintenance support for tools and testing infrastructure, and supporting project communications.

OpenVPN: Widely Used VPN Solution

OpenVPN is a full-featured open source SSL/TLS VPN solution that accommodates a wide range of configurations and authentication models. Starting with the fundamental premise that complexity is the enemy of security, OpenVPN offers a cost-effective, lightweight alternative to other VPN technologies that is well-adapted for small companies and organizations. With FOSS Sustainability Fund support, the OpenVPN will focus on growing its core contributor base, improving documentation and plans, and ensuring core infrastructure is community-owned.

Learn more and apply here!