Apache Subversion

A New Vision and Roadmap for Subversion?

Jessica Thornsby

Proposed shake-up at Subversion after the team reveal no new full-time committers in the past year.

Core Subversion developer Michael Pilato has posted a ‘Subversion Vision and Roadmap Proposal‘ after receiving feedback that the open source revision control system was in danger of stagnating. He reveals that, in fact, there have been no new full-time Subversion committers, in the past year.

However, to him the problem lies in Subversion’s failure to communicate their current goals to those outside of the Subversion community. This creates the appearance of inactivity. But, Pilato has plenty of ideas on how to rectify this.

He makes the potentially controversial claim that Subversion has no future as a DVCS tool, citing “two very successful such tools” that already exist in this market place. Instead, Pilato recommends focusing on centralisation, path-based authorisation and simplicity, to better cater to the corporate developer. He offers the following vision statement:

“Subversion exists to be universally recognized and adopted as an open-source, centralized version control system characterized by its reliability as a safe haven for valuable data; the simplicity of its model and usage; and its ability to support the needs of a wide variety of users and projects, from individuals to large-scale enterprise operations.”

Keeping this vision statement in mind, Pilato recommends a list of features that should be implemented in future releases of Subversion. These include repository-dictated configuration for version 1.8; a version 2 of the Subversion editor in 1.9; and FS-NG complete with FS-NG enabled features in version 2.0.

He acknowledges that FS-NG is likely to divide opinion, but explains that he believes the current two file system offerings are stifling innovation at Subversion. He proposes that Subversion 2.0 be allowed to break compatibility with the 1.x line in ways that can be mitigated by using the RA layer as a compatibility shim.

In terms of limiting the fragmentation of the Subversion community, Pilato proposes hosting a Subversion “planet” at Here, feeds would be collected from both individual contributors and corporate entities. To breathe new life into the community, he advises putting more effort into mentoring newcomers, as asking a would-be-contributor to “troll through the issue tracker looking for bite-sized issues….communicates “we can’t be bothered to mentor you.”

Finally, he envisions a public roadmap, which would encourage contributors to accelerate Subversion’s development in “harmony with the Big Picture.”

He is currently soliciting feedback from the community on his vision for the future of Subversion. For more information, please see the mailing list.

There have been several changes at Subversion over the past few months. In February, Subversion became an Apache Top-Level Project and then, in March, the team added a custom replication system for reaching a consensus in a network of unreliable processors, to the system.

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