Dat Project is now the Dat Protocol Foundation

Since 2013, Dat Project has led cutting-edge research & development for distributed ledger technology and data syncronization primitives. Everything open source from the first commit, we took Unix-style programming to heart and published everything as composable modules. Releasing early and often meant the toolkit has evolved over time with a healthy bazaar-style ecosystem.

Now, 6 years later, we have gone through self-reflection and realized that most of the work is no longer happening in the 'Dat Project' research lab, but rather coming from outside open source contributors, non-profit organizations, governments, libraries, and companies.

Now Releasing: The Dat Protocol Foundation

We are entering this new phase with open arms by rebranding ourselves from the Dat Project to the Dat Protocol Foundation.

We believe that the open source community -- the humans -- are the most important driving force for a healthy, stable, and effective peer-to-peer technology alternatives that rival the dominate players that rule the Web today.

To further this mission, the Dat Protocol Foundation will use it's funds to give grants to open source community members working on core modules and cutting-edge problems in the space. We will solicit funds using three methods:

  1. private and public grants;
  2. non-binding individual and organizational monetary donations; and
  3. in-kind contributions such as developer time, documentation writing, design, and the facilitation of working groups.

The non-profit organization will continue to maintain a small organizational team, which provides a thin layer of social & technical infrastructure for the open source community. This team includes:

  • one part-time Open Source Community Lead (currently @RangerMauve);
  • and founding members, which currently consists of CS&S core staff: Danielle Robinson and Joe Hand, as well as old-time Dat rabble-rousers Mathias Buus (@mafintosh) and Karissa McKelvey (@okdistribute).

This core team works collaboratively with organizations in the consortium who are depending upon pieces of Dat as a core part of their operations & value.

This initial group includes:

  • Hyperdivision
  • Beaker Browser
  • Digital Democracy
  • GEUT
  • Playproject
  • Peermaps
  • CoBox
  • Cabal
  • Decentstack
  • Ara Blocks
  • Ink & Switch
  • Dat Rust
  • Dat Cxx

If you are an organization that is using Dat and would like to contribute code, documentation, or hugs to the Dat community, please email us at [email protected]

Focus areas

The Dat Protocol Foundation consists three main focus areas:

  • Community Management: Facilitation, community engagement, social infrastructure, events, and conflict resolution.
  • Developer Experience: Improving the developer experience through user guides, documentation, attending conferences, and responding to inquiries.
  • Technical Research & Development: Give grants to organizations that are building new core modular technology, researching new approaches, and fixing bugs in existing modules.

How did we get here?

In August 2013, the first line of code went into Dat -- open source from the first commit. Over the past 6 years, we've received about $1.7 million in funding from a variety of sources, although most of the money coming from large foundation grants.

Throughout its history, Dat has had a primary focus on sharing data in civic tech and scientific research. At its height, the core team in the Dat Project was 8 people in 2016, with both Sloan foundation and Knight Foundation funding. Most of the fruit of this labor has been producing "lego-like" building blocks that hundreds of community members use every day: in their day jobs, in activism, and in art.

I've been around since mid 2014, and part of my job has been to manage the budget & funder relationships. I will give you a quick overview of how we've spent the money so far (now represented loosely in back-of-the-napkin calculations for the sake of brevity):

  • $4k per month on 1 part-time developer community advocate;
  • $2k per month on fundraising & operations;
  • Occasional burst contract spending on tutorials, documentation, and UX/design;
  • The rest (16-40k/month) on open source software development:
    • hypercore
    • discovery-swarm
    • hyperdrive
    • dat cli
    • dat-node
    • hyperdrive v10/hyperswarm (dat 2.0)
    • dat base
    • random-access-* ecosystem
    • hyperswarm
    • dat-desktop (outdated)
    • ...and dozens of other modules, too many to count! (some deprecated and some still active)

In contrast, for the past year, the budget has ranged from $50,000-$200,000, which has maintained 1-3 core developers focused on user experience and core libraries as well as a part-time program manager/fundraiser position. But much more than that amount of work has gone into the ecosystem overall. Most of that development is happening outside of the Dat non-profit.

This presents both challenges and opportunities for Dat as it enters into this next phase:

Challenges

  • There are more companies, startups, and other funded organizations using Dat, which puts more stress on the developer community lead & core engineers.
  • The core developers are paid the same as in the beginning of the project, and the number of these positions has not grown.
  • Funded organizations benefit from these core tasks, but currently have no coordinated methods for contributing.
  • Grants are becoming harder to come by as the project matures (my theory is that grants are more likely given to early-stage "experimental" or late-stage "mature" projects, not mid-stage).

Opportunities

  • More funded organizations are using Dat, which means more resources in the community
  • More community advocates are available to contribute to tutorials, faqs, and documentation
  • More value in the protocol, especially to those who are more risk-averse to adopting new technologies

We're excited about making the Dat Foundation more useful to the community. This movement recognizes the power of collective software development and will allow us to push forward module development in new and exciting ways. It will give visibility to the less-noticed and ever-important tasks of documentation, design, and working group facilitation. We hope the Foundation will be a supportive space for the work we can accomplish together as a community over the next 6 years, as we continue to re-imagine and re-engineer the web.

Get involved!

If you are an organization or individual that is using Dat and would like to contribute, please email us at [email protected]

Thanks & hope to hear from you soon,
Dat Protocol Foundation
[email protected]

Karissa McKelvey

Karissa McKelvey

Karissa has been working on Dat since its inception in 2014 and is board member of CS&S. Her work has been published in NYT, NPR, and WSJ.

Read More