Saturday, February 24, 2007

Happy 3rd birthday, Subversion

Three years ago, on February 23, 2004, the Subversion developers released version 1.0 of their new-at-the-time version control system. Quite unlike human offspring (if you can pardon the anthropomorphism in which I'm about to engage), Subversion hit the proverbial ground running. Not only could it walk and talk just as well as its much older cousin, CVS—in many cases, it could do so better. It remembered the finer details of things better, which is pretty important as a version control system exists for no reason at all if not to remember things. With support for directory versioning, atomic commits, binary differencing, offline operations, and user-defined versioned metadata, and with a modular design built from the start with WAN-readiness in mind, Subversion was by no means the squirming, near-sighted, helpless offspring that, say, my two sons were at birth.

Back then, folks were telling us to release 1.0 even earlier than we did. But the Subversion development community consists of incredibly bright and friendly hackers dedicated to excellence. We had a clear picture of what Subversion 1.0 was to be—basically, a compelling replacement for CVS—and we had well-formed ideas of what that meant in terms of features and stability.

In the three years since the 1.0 release of Subversion, there have been another four large release milestones. With Subversion 1.4.3 as the most recent release, and Subversion 1.5 currently under development, it's clear that there is a vision for the software that exceeds just making a better CVS. Constant attention has been given to ways of expanding the feature set, expanding the interoperability with other systems, and expanding the user base by demonstrating version control done right.

Subversion's adoption rate and availability on high-volume project hosting service websites are testimonies of its maturity level and affirmations of its viability as a contender in the version control arena. Today, you can use Subversion to hold your software project's precious source code at,, Google's project hosting service, and no small number of other hosting sites. Where solid statistics exist for such things, it's clear that the number of Subversion installations continues to grow at a better-than-constant rate. And industry analysts and journalists agree—Subversion is an exception to the trend of failed open-source software projects.

So, having been fortunate enough to be associated with this software for just over six years now, I say "Happy Birthday" to Subversion and its development community. We'll close our eyes and collectively blow out the candles; it's the users whose wishes come true.