Preserving the Free Software Commons
Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) constitutes the bulk of the Software Commons, and is at the heart of our digital society. We discuss why and how the Software Heritage project is taking over the mission of ensuring that this precious body of knowledge will be preserved over time and made available to all.
The Software Commons is the vast body of human knowledge embedded in software source code, that is publicly available and can be freely altered and reused. Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) constitutes the bulk of it. Sadly we seem to be at increasing risk of losing this precious heritage built by the FOSS community over the paste decades: code hosting sites shut down when their popularity decreases, tapes of ancient versions of our toolchain (bit-)rot in basements, etc.
The ambitious goal of the Software Heritage project is to contribute to address this risk, by collecting, preserving, and sharing all publicly available software in source code form. Together with its complete VCS development history. Forever, of course.
By doing so Software Heritage will serve the needs of: Society, by preserving our collective technological heritage; Industry, by building the largest software provenance open database; Science, by assembling the largest curated archive for software research; and Education, by creating the ultimate anthology for programming curricula.
Although still in Beta, Software Heritage has already archived more than 3 billion unique source code files and 700 million unique commits, spanning more than 45 million FOSS projects from major software development hubs, GNU/Linux distributions, and upstream software collections.
Software Heritage is developed transparently as a collaborative project and all its own source code is available as FOSS under copyleft licenses. Currently incubated by Inria, the project will graduate soon to an independent charitable, nonprofit organization.
|Roberto Di Cosmo|