2020.07.01 - Article: Announcing the Zig Software Foundation

Original Article: Announcing the Zig Software Foundation ⚡ Zig Programming Language


Announcing the Zig Software Foundation

In the United States, people look at you funny if you tell them you are starting a non-profit.

“Don’t you want to to get rich?” they ask.

Even the bank employee indicated this was an unusual process, setting up an account for a non-profit. She had to call her manager in several times to help figure out the system.

I think we have it precisely backwards. The whole point of money is spending it to enrich your life and the lives of those around you. It’s a means to an end; it’s not the end in and of itself.

Except, for a VC-backed startup company, money is the primary purpose. Despite whatever grandiose social good the company claims to stand for, at the end of the day the incentive structure is only aligned for profit. How did we allow this to become the default?

I’m here to prove that operating as a non-profit is viable, better for everyone involved, and should be the default way to do business.

Today, I am proud to announce the Zig Software Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, dedicated to promoting, protecting, and advancing the Zig programming language, supporting and facilitating the growth of a diverse and international community of Zig programmers, and providing education and guidance to students, teaching the next generation of programmers to be competent, ethical, and to hold each other to high standards.

This is all possible thanks to you, the saints who have been sponsoring me to work on this full-time. You trusted me, and now I hope you can see that it was well-placed trust. The existence of this organization means, crucially, that you now have the option to donate to the non-profit, rather than to me directly. In addition to the ability to write off donations from taxable income, the legal system enforces that non-profits use funds solely to uphold their mission statements, and so you can have extra peace of mind that your donations are in responsible hands. You are welcome to continue to sponsor me as an individual contributor to open source, however, I will be distancing my personal Patreon and GitHub Sponsors profile from the official Zig Software Foundation sponsorship page. I am employed by ZSF as lead software engineer, so if you are currently donating to me directly (thank you!) I would encourage you to switch over to donating to the org.

In You Weren’t Meant to Have a Boss, Paul Graham makes an analogy between animals in the zoo (employees) and animals in the wild (startup founders). I think he’s on to something, but when you start a startup, you still have a boss. In fact, you have the same boss. At the end of the day, it is an inescapable fact that you must do what makes a profit, for the shareholders.

The difference in incentives makes a structural difference that permeates every part of an organization. Windows users wake up one day and find ads in their start menu. Will Debian Linux ever try to put ads into any of its software? The concept is absurd.

When I worked at a publicly traded dating website, female users were known internally as “inventory”. It makes sense from a certain perspective, if your primary focus is extracting value from paying customers. But when your motto is “together we serve the users”, it would be ridiculous to imagine something so inhumane. To me, this is the crux of the issue. I’ve never been more motivated in my life, than to serve the community around me, and help people accomplish their own goals.

And that includes people who are hired by the organization. For-profit employment opportunities tend to be exploitative, requiring government regulations such as minimum wage to keep people above the poverty line. For non-profits, however, that would be defeating the purpose! Part of the goal of the ZSF is to provide excellent jobs that make people happy to work, and leave them financially well off, as well as having gained the kind of work experience that they wish to invest in for their own careers.

And with that, it is my pleasure to announce Loris Cro as the VP of Community of ZSF. His role is to increase community adoption and engagement, seek donations from companies, and find public R&D funds and programs. He has already demonstrated talent, dedication, and cunning, and I’m excited to see what he can accomplish in the non-profit sector.

You may know Loris as the host of Zig SHOWTIME. In fact, he is producing the live announcement show to accompany this blog post, which is taking place on Saturday, July 11th, at 3pm PT / 6pm ET.

Now that the non-profit is here, there is a new section on the Zig project homepage: ziglang.org/zsf. This organization operates in the open - an “open source” business. Here you will find financial details, board meeting minutes, and all the mundane record keeping.

Finally - I do humbly want to ask for your support. I don’t see the need for ZSF to grow beyond a handful of people, but the project could desperately use 1-3 more full-time maintainers. Merging pull requests has become a full-time job in and of itself, which delays progress towards Zig 1.0. With your support, we can provide a couple of well-deserving contributors the ability to make a living, and accelerate the project’s maturity, stability, and documentation.