Recently I took the role of an ambassador for Software Heritage (SWH), a remarkable universal source code archive. I was surprised to discover that many of my colleagues and fellow software developers were unaware of SWH’s existence. After visiting the SWH website, they weren’t quite sure what it was about and why it is important. I decided to write this article for them and for those who still don’t know about source code archiving and the importance of software persistence. Let’s get started.
Software Heritage provides a service for archiving and referencing historical and contemporary software — with a focus on human-readable source code.
This is written in a Wikipedia article about SWH. It is pretty concisely written, but it is still not entirely clear what problem SWH is solving. Let me show you an example of the problem in purpose to understand the SWH initiative deeply.
If you are a researcher, scientist, or tech writer (like me), this example can be familiar to you. Imagine, some time ago, you wrote an article, and there were references to other articles and also to the source code. The reference could be just a web link to GitHub/GitLab or another place. The problem is that you don’t guarantee that the link you provided in the references would always exist or the source code snippet itself wouldn’t be changed.