Calls: Send in your ideas. Deadline August 1st, 2021.

User-Operated Internet Fund

More about: Guide for Applicants | Eligibility | FAQ

Submission is open

The best thing about the internet is that we are all connected, but hand in hand with that comes its organic and decentralised nature that caters for disruptive innovation and diversity. From the edges inwards, users themselves can collectively own, operate and rewrite every aspect of the technology and infrastructure they depend on. Once you are able to connect even to a single other user, you are free to do within that connection what you want and wherever your skills and imagination can take you. This important empowering property of self-determination is unfortunately not cast in stone — the internet has no coordinated defense mechanisms built in against hostile take-overs or unethical behaviour, so it is up to the community to organise itself and keep the internet open.

A healthy, resilient, sustainable and fair internet for everyone is not created by any individual private or public entity, but by its users. Individual autonomy, permissionless innnovation and sharing are essential: to not only to have the freedom to determine which software and protocols to run wherever one wants, but to be able to learn, improve and share — not just pictures, video's, chat messages or data, but everything: the applications on our devices, the underlying software and hardware itself, even the core protocols — whatever it takes to give users the internet they deserve.

Software is eating the world. Maybe the world ought to consider biting back.

We need your ideas and contributions to help reshape the state of play, and to help create an open, trustworthy and reliable internet for all. And of course such contributions do not happen automatically. This is why we award small to medium-size R&D grants towards strenghtening and improving the user-operated internet . We are looking for new ideas and core technologies that help society tackle hard but very very important questions, each of which has significant social and economic consequences. Obviously, your contributions have to become part of the 'technology commons': that means free and open source software, libre hardware and open standards.

We are seeking project proposals up to 50.000 euro's - with the possibility to scale them up if there is proven potential. Technology should be a commons for everyone to enjoy and contribute to, without gatekeepers or persistent threats. You can only replace a black box, because you cannot meaningfully improve it. It is still early days for the internet, and we are yet to unlock its true potential. The internet in whatever shape or form it will take is already part of the social fabric of our societies and an integral part of our economies. Internet is used by humans of all ages, and if we don't put powerful new technology in the hands of future generations as building blocks for a fair and democratic society and an open economy that benefits all — who will.

Have a look at other NLnet funded projects to see what we mean, but don't be afraid to send something completely different if you think you can contribute to the technology commons and the user-operated internet.

The next deadline for submission is August 1st 2021 12:00 CEST (noon).

Submission is open


The User-operated Internet Fund is made possible with financial support from the Technology Commons Trust.