Effective funding means understanding unusual needs.

Infrastructure projects have some needs that set them apart from projects and products at the application layer which might seem counterintuitive to funders more accustomed to supporting the latter.


  • The maintenance of digital infrastructure is essential to the security and resilience of the digital world. However, these activities suffer from being perceived as neither very innovative nor very visible – both qualities on which public funders especially tend to focus attention.
  • In the context of digital infrastructure, the second and third implementations of a new standard are not only helpful, but necessary. A minimum of two reference implementations is necessary to advance a protocol to Draft Standard at the IETF, for example. Having several implementations of a protocol also means their developers need to agree on its functionality, even if it hasn’t completed the standardization process. This can help curb quasi-standards, in which one application implicitly defines how a protocol works, allowing it to make crucial changes without consulting the ecosystem.
  • People who draft standards will not necessarily experience how their work impacts actual users. Whether there is a feedback loop between standard writers, implementers and services varies a lot. This knowledge lies with the people who run services on the basis of an implementation.


“Funding for maintenance is hopeless.”

“The development of libraries is difficult to fund; it’s not very visible.”

“[A project developing a quasi-standard] makes too many policy decisions. Other developers then build around it at great expense.”

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