Software Heritage: global software archive

Changed on 08/12/2021
Inria launched in 2016 to the public of the Software Heritage project. This project, initiated by Inria, aims to collect, organise, preserve and make accessible to everyone the source code of all available software. This is an issue of global importance.
Illustration Enseigner l'informatique
© Inria / Photo G. Scagnelli


By building a universal and enduring software archive, Software Heritage aims to establish an essential infrastructure for the benefit of society, science and industry.

A societal, technical and scientific challenge 

Logo Software Heritage

To exchange messages, pay bills, access entertainment, search for information, or plan trips, virtually everything we do in our daily lives depends on software run by computers. But this is just the tip of the iceberg: software controls the electronics in our cars and medical equipment, it runs transport and energy networks, banks and the administration of public and private organisations. Software is at the heart of all technological development and has become indispensable for scientific research in all fields. It therefore plays a central and even critical role in our daily life, industry and society.

In order to preserve this heritage and to meet the technological and scientific challenges of tomorrow, it is essential to build a universal and perennial software archive today. Software Heritage aims to build a modern "Library of Alexandria" of software, a unique repository of source code and a major research tool for Computer Science: the project will preserve and disseminate the knowledge encoded in software today, and will increase our ability to access all digital information. In particular, the database will be based on a distributed infrastructure, so as to guarantee the robustness and availability of data.

Software Heritage is laying the foundations for a major digital science research tool that will enable significant advances in the quality, safety and security of the software we use every day, and will eventually become the reference code catalogue for all industrial users.

For Inria, Software Heritage is not only a tool for preserving the world's software heritage recognised by UNESCO, but also an instrument for open science and a formidable source of study topics that are only just beginning to be appreciated.

Jean-Frédéric Gerbeau, CEO of Science Department


Public sector source code is made up of thousands of repositories. Making these codes accessible to all requires that they be easily discoverable, regardless of the forges where they are developed, and preserved over time. addresses the first problem, but it is thanks to Software Heritage that the State is addressing the second.

Bastien Guerry, DINUM


Software Heritage today: from Inria to Microsoft

To date, Software Heritage has already collected over twenty million software projects, two and a half billion unique archived source files and their entire development history, making it the richest source code archive on the planet.

Software Heritage has already received support from scientists, industrialists, learned societies, foundations, independent and institutional organisations. At the same time, two initial international partners have already pledged to support the project and help it grow: Microsoft, and a public institution for scientific research, DANS of the Royal Academy of the Netherlands.

Software source code is an essential intellectual heritage for the functioning of our societies. As a major software company, we are proud to be the first to contribute to Software Heritage. We provide the Azure infrastructure to help ensure the robustness and availability of the archive.

Jean Paoli, General Manager à Microsoft Corp.

All concerned, all contributors

This project was initiated by Inria, a research institute dedicated to digital technology and a key player in the software sector for many years, convinced of the essential role of software in the development of the digital society. Inria wanted to take up the challenge, by setting up a dedicated team and the necessary means to start the project. The institute is now launching a worldwide appeal to join this initiative and is opening the website.

To collect all the available source code, we need contributors to point out the thousands of disparate sites in which the world's software heritage is scattered today.

To help with development, we have a long tradition of collaboration in the open source world and will be opening up all of our platform's source code in the coming days so that developers around the world can participate in this effort.

To meet the new scientific challenges of building a universal source code archive from dispersed information, we need contributions from researchers in all disciplines.

To preserve and make this content available, we need human, material and financial resources and French and international partners.

Software Heritage Project

  • Cultural heritage: preserving our software heritage, helping to preserve access to all digital content and providing a valuable source for the study of technologies;
  • Industry : Software Heritage is building a reference archive that has the potential to deliver far-reaching industrial benefits, from traceability to compliance, from code analysis and qualification to vulnerability detection, from recognition of programming patterns to analysis of trends in component usage;
  • Research : Software Heritage will ensure the availability and traceability of source code used in research in all fields of science and will make possible advanced software studies and experiments using the massive data of all open source software;
  • Education : Software Heritage will provide teachers and students with the largest compilation of easily searchable and referenced source code examples for better training.

Let's read Software Heritage