June 30, 2016

Software Heritage is now open, please come in!

Source code is special: it’s executable knowledge that is meant to be human readable, by design.

Software Heritage is an ambitious initiative that aims at collecting, organizing, preserving and sharing all the source code publicly available in the world. We decided to undertake this ambitious task because software is our heritage, because software is essential for science, because software is the cornerstone of our industry, our society and our own lives.

For over a year, we have been working in the trenches, with a dedicated small team, setting up a preliminary infrastructure and collecting an initial source code corpus, exploring the implications of our vision, and establishing a strategy for our long term mission. Today, Software Heritage is open to the world, sharing its vision with all of you, with endorsement from many organisations, companies and individuals.

We are deeply grateful to Inria, the French public science and technology institution dedicated to computational sciences:

  • Inria’s full support for the project bootstrap has made Software Heritage possible;
  • Inria’s willingness to support the creation of a nonprofit foundation open to all interested parties, like it did years ago for the World Wide Web consortium, is the key to Software Heritage’s long term success.

Yes, Software Heritage’s mission is a complex, ambitious, long-term undertaking of universal relevance: that’s why we need the help of all of you to make it succeed:

  • New scientific challenges arise from this effort, and researchers from all fields are welcome to tackle them.
  • Identifying the diverse and disparate places where source code is published today is another challenge: volunteers are needed to create and maintain a list as extensive as possible.
  • curated index of the content of the Software Heritage archive will also require a vast amount of contributors, each bringing in his or her unique knowledge.
  • The Software Heritage’s own software source code is going to be open for collaboration, and developers are welcome to lend a hand.
  • Maintaining the Software Heritage archive on the long term requires significant resources and we need to establish an international network of partners and sponsors that will set this precious corpus beyond the reach of accident.

We are progressively building the collaboration infrastructure which will allow us to work together on all of these axes: each new milestone will be announced on this blog… the first one being the opening up our source code in the very next few days!

Not everything is ready yet, and it will take time to get up to speed with all of you that are interested in collaborating: please bear with us, and remember that, in many cases, it’s not just the destination that is important, but the journey.

Roberto Di Cosmo, Director, Software Heritage