Chrome’s Framework for Open Source Investment

This year, Chrome’s has committed over $200K in their Web Framework & Tools Performance Fund to support open source tooling. Chrome understands that collaboration with open source paves the road to a better web.

Chrome’s Framework for Open Source Investment

Chrome’s Web Framework & Tools Performance Fund supports a variety of open source frameworks to build a healthy and robust framework ecosystem. This year, the Chrome team has committed over $200K to open source tooling that make a better web. This includes a commitment to sponsor Webpack, ESLint and the Vue.js ecosystem.

Collaboration with open source paves the road to a better web.

At the end of 2020 (about a million years ago), I spoke with Senior Staff Engineering Manager Addy Osmani about Chrome’s approach to this open source fund. Whether you're thinking of applying for their fund or following their lead, here are some lessons for the road.

Room Rater gave our Open Source Collective <> Chrome Framework Fund interview a 10/10!

Chrome wants to meet developers where they are at. While the browser may not use the same open-source projects web application developers do, they want to do their part to make sure libraries and frameworks that help developers build great experiences can succeed and thrive.

Chrome designed their current fund to support open source projects thinking about performance impact, regardless of where they are in their life cycle.

Whether big or small, young or old, all open source projects deserve to be cared for. Reflect upon what you need, be honest about who you are, and ask.

We talked extensively about the Chrome team’s heuristics for supporting open source frameworks. Often a first challenge  – unpacking a project’s need.

“What we tend to find is that there are some open source maintainers who've been doing it for a long time and have a very clear idea of where they need funding. And then there's a group of new maintainers who maybe just started a project during a lunch break, it accidentally took off and is now 30% of their time. Sometimes this group don’t yet know it’s completely okay to be asking for funding if it’s helping the web.”

Another influencing factor for the Chrome Framework Fund portfolio is evaluating theimpact their contribution will realize. Sure, the popularity of an open project matters but an investment in a small project can go a long way. One person may be working on something super important and a small amount of funding can grow an entire community. So the team takes the artistry of the balance (if you will) very seriously.

Supporting open source is different from sponsoring open source. We don’t want undue influence.

Through Open Source Collective, Chrome is able to support open source projects at all stages of development. But according to Addy, the balance between “support” and “sponsorship” can be tricky.

There is financial “support” which entrusts open source projects the means to focus on the things that matter to them. And there is financial “sponsorship” where a sponsor may care about certain things improving and hope financial investment can move those things forward. “We don't want undue influence but we do need to balance value back where it can help developers get friction out of the way.”

Ultimately, the fundamental goal of Chrome’s Framework Fund is making sure the open source projects are sustainable on the whole. Last year the Chrome Web Frameworks fund contributed to projects such as Nuxt.js, Vue, bundlesize, Parcel, CSS and React tooling initiatives. And earlier this month, Addy announced the first of their 2021 grants to webpack.

“For many web-app developers, the webpack bundler has been a key part of our toolbox for years. It's powered JavaScript bundling for framework CLIs such as create-react-app, Next.js, Vue, Nuxt and Angular CLI... to name but a few.
The Chrome team is happy to be sponsoring webpack's on-going maintenance and evolution in 2021, as it builds on the foundation of webpack 5. There are many exciting bundling efforts happening across the ecosystem. We look forward to both webpack (and others) continuing to make it easier to build and bundle for the web.”

It is exciting to see Chrome’s significant collaboration with open source frameworks and it was a pleasure to discuss Chrome’s heuristics of contribution. Grab this LINK to read a transcription of our full conversation.