Session: Funding Fediverse development


Convener: Gerben (NLnet Foundation)

Participants who chose to record their names here (counting 18 people total):

  • Johannes Ernst (@j12t@social.coop)

  • Bob Wyman (@bobwyman@mastodon.social)

  • Jaz-Michael King (@jaz@mastodon.iftas.org)

  • Edward L. Platt (@elplatt@greatjustice.net)

  • Jim White (@jimwhite@mas.to)

  • Darius Dunlap (@dariusdunlap@indieweb.social)


NLnet previously funded projects: https://nlnet.nl/project/current.html

NLnet digital commons and networked technology applications call for October 1st 2023: https://nlnet.nl/news/2023/20230801-call.html

NGI Zero Core: Moving the internet forward (opened up on August 1st 2023, with a deadline of October 1st 2023). We are seeking project proposals between 5.000 and 50.000 euro’s https://nlnet.nl/core/

NGI: Human-centric Internet: A human centric Next Generation Internet shall reflect the openness, diversity and the inclusion that are at the core of European values - Roberto Viola

NLNet background:

  • Even older than GNU

  • Experimented with using railway lines for telecommunications in the ’80s

  • Started with the sale of a for-profit company to fund the foundation

  • Gives grants 5k-50k Euros to both orgs and individuals

  • Application rounds every two months

  • Get 100-200 applications every time, try to at least read every proposal

  • Today most of the funding comes from EU, Next-generation Internet

  • Projects need a European dimension, such as a team-member based in Europe

Q: Is NLNet just funding maintainers of projects? Or also independent contributors who might not get their work merged?
A: Both, although recommendation to get expression of interest from upstream maintainers to show that funding is providing value to the larger community.
Q: Peer funding such as gitcoin?
A: Too overloaded to look into additional funding models. Diffiulty with large number of people voting: only a few people will look into projects in details. Easy to end up funding people who are better at creating powerpoint presentations than delivering something meaningful. Expert reviewers can fund coders doing good work who aren’t as good at articulating the value of their work.
Q: How to get in touch with NLNet?
A: nlnet.nl. So many applications, don’t often have time to talk one-on-one.
Q from Johannes: What percentage of apps do you fund? What are the most likely reasons to fund/not fund a proposal?
A: Rough estimate, low-hundreds applications each round, fund about 1 in 5 but it varies drastically. Does it seem strategic? Are other projects doing the same thing? Could you compare your effort to existing and historical efforts? Some apps have very good technical ideas but a lack of practical and historical context, can be a red flag. “Why would my project succeed when so many others have failed?”
Q: Can individuals apply or do you need a corporate entity?
A: Individuals can definitely apply. NLNet handles accounting but depending on the country, developers may need to pay income tax.
Q: What about people with full-time jobs?
A: A lot of funding is project funding for a limited period. Compared with core funding to cover expenses for a certain amount of time. Project gets broken down into milestones and payments are made after each milestone. Can’t guarantee long-term funding. Can apply for follow-up grant. Good chances of getting a follow-up grant if the first one went well and it is related work. Wouldn’t recommend quitting your job and counting just on NLNet. Many people combine with having a job. You could do the tasks in a few weeks or over a year, either is okay. This makes it easier to work around jobs.
Q from Edward L. Platt: Does the funding scope include usability?
A: We would love to fund usability and accessability. If you’re blind, you shouldn’t be limited to Microsoft products just because they are the only ones accessible. NLNet provides services like accessability and security support.
Q from Jaz: Executive Director of IFTAS. Not developers, not in the EU. Work with developers and technical projects. Is that in scope?
A: Explicitly research and development funding, but not operations. Tooling to support operations is development, so it’s probably in scope. Some tasks in the proposal may need to be removed if they aren’t in scope.
Q from Jim: Looked through list of funded projects. Lots of good well-known projects. 34 mention ActivityPub so far.
A: We’re thankful for the developers and we try to get them the money they need to do good work.
Q: What happens if someone makes a proposal, but realizes later they need to change the scope of work?
A: Can make amendments to the MoU. Can add different contributors, etc.
Q from Johannes: What is the timeline for the phases of review?
A: We expect about 5 weeks for the first round. Second round is interactive, depends on how many projects, but usually shorter, about 4 weeks. External review 2-3 weeks. New call goes out before the projects from previous round are chosen!
Q: Can somone make multiple applications for different projects?
A: If multiple are good, we may ask you to choose which to do first. Or if they are related, they may be combined into a single proposal.
Q: Do we have to wait to start work until a decision is made?
A: Yes, NLNet can’t fund work performed before the official selection.