Tag Archives: anniversary

curl is 23 years old today

curl’s official birthday was March 20, 1998. That was the day the first ever tarball was made available that could build a tool named curl. I put it together and I called it curl 4.0 since I kept the version numbering from the previous names I had used for the tool. Or rather, I bumped it up from 3.12 which was the last version I used under the previous name: urlget.

Of course curl wasn’t created out of thin air exactly that day. The history can be traced back a little over a year earlier: On November 11, 1996 there was a tool named httpget released. It was developed by Rafael Sagula and this was the project I found and started contributing to. httpget 0.1 was less than 300 lines of a single C file. (The earliest code I still have source to is httpget 1.3, found here.)

I’ve said it many times before but I started poking on this project because I wanted to have a small tool to download currency rates regularly from a web site site so that I could offer them in my IRC bot’s currency exchange.

Small and quick decisions done back then, that would later make a serious impact on and shape my life. curl has been one of my main hobbies ever since – and of course also a full-time job since a few years back now.

On that exact same November day in 1996, the first Wget release shipped (1.4.0). That project also existed under another name prior to its release – and remembering back I don’t think I knew about it and I went with httpget for my task. Possibly I found it and dismissed it because of its size. The Wget 1.4.0 tarball was 171 KB.

After a short while, I took over as maintainer of httpget and expanded its functionality further. It subsequently was renamed to urlget when I added support for Gopher and FTP (driven by the fact that I found currency rates hosted on such servers as well). In the spring of 1998 I added support for FTP upload as well and the name of the tool was again misleading and I needed to rename it once more.

Naming things is really hard. I wanted a short word in classic Unix style. I didn’t spend an awful lot of time, as I thought of a fun word pretty soon. The tool works on URLs and it is an Internet client-side tool. ‘c’ for client and URL made ‘cURL’ seem pretty apt and fun. And short. Very “unixy”.

I already then wanted curl to be a citizen in the Unix tradition of using pipes and stdout etc. I wanted curl to work mostly like the cat command but for URLs so it would by default send the URL to stdout in the terminal. Just like cat does. It would then let us “see” the contents of that URL. The letter C is pronounced as see, so “see URL” also worked. In my pun-liking mind I didn’t need more. (but I still pronounce it “kurl”!)

This is the original logo, created in 1998 by Henrik Hellerstedt

I packaged curl 4.0 and made it available to the world on that Friday. Then at 2,200 lines of code. In the curl 4.8 release that I did a few months later, the THANKS file mentions 7 contributors who had helped out. It took us almost seven years to reach a hundred contributors. Today, that file lists over 2,300 names and we add a few hundred new entries every year. This is not a solo project!

Nothing particular happened

curl was not a massive success or hit. A few people found it and 14 days after that first release I uploaded 4.1 with a few bug-fixes and a multi-decade tradition had started: keep on shipping updates with bug-fixes. “ship early and often” is a mantra we’ve stuck with.

Later in 1998 when we had done more than 15 releases, the web page featured this excellent statement:

Screenshot from the curl web site in December 1998

300 downloads!

I never had any world-conquering ideas or blue sky visions for the project and tool. I just wanted it to do Internet transfers good, fast and reliably and that’s what I worked on making reality.

To better provide good Internet transfers to the world, we introduced the library libcurl, shipped for the first time in the summer of 2000 and that then enabled the project to take off at another level. libcurl has over time developed into a de-facto internet transfer API.

Today, at its 23rd birthday that is still mostly how I view the main focus of my work on curl and what I’m here to do. I believe that if I’ve managed to reach some level of success with curl over time, it is primarily because of one particular quality. A single word:

Persistence

We hold out. We endure and keep polishing. We’re here for the long run. It took me two years (counting from the precursors) to reach 300 downloads. It took another ten or so until it was really widely available and used.

In 2008, the curl website served about 100 GB data every month. This months it serves 15,600 GB – which interestingly is 156 times more data over 156 months! But most users of course never download anything from our site but they get curl from their distro or operating system provider.

curl was adopted in Red Hat Linux in late 1998, became a Debian package in May 1999, shipped in Mac OS X 10.1 in August 2001. Today, it is also shipped by default in Windows 10 and in iOS and Android devices. Not to mention the game consoles, Nintendo Switch, Xbox and Sony PS5.

Amusingly, libcurl is used by the two major mobile OSes but not provided as an API by them, so lots of apps, including many extremely large volume apps bundle their own libcurl build: YouTube, Skype, Instagram, Spotify, Google Photos, Netflix etc. Meaning that most smartphone users today have many separate curl installations in their phones.

Further, libcurl is used by some of the most played computer games of all times: GTA V, Fortnite, PUBG mobile, Red Dead Redemption 2 etc.

libcurl powers media players and set-top boxes such as Roku, Apple TV by maybe half a billion TVs.

curl and libcurl ships in virtually every Internet server and is the default transfer engine in PHP, which is found in almost 80% of the world’s almost two billion websites.

Cars are Internet-connected now. libcurl is used in virtually every modern car these days to transfer data to and from the vehicles.

Then add media players, kitchen and medical devices, printers, smart watches and lots of “smart” IoT things. Practically speaking, just about every Internet-connected device in existence runs curl.

I’m convinced I’m not exaggerating when I claim that curl exists in over ten billion installations world-wide

Alone and strong

A few times over the years I’ve tried to see if curl could join an umbrella organization, but none has accepted us and I think it has all been for the best in the end. We are completely alone and independent, from organizations and companies. We do exactly as we please and we’re not following anyone else’s rules. Over the last few years, sponsorships and donations have really accelerated and we’re in a good position to pay large rewards for bug-bounties and more.

The fact that I and wolfSSL offer commercial curl support has only made curl stronger I believe: it lets me spend even more time working on curl and it makes more companies feel safer with going with curl, which in the end makes it better for all of us.

Those 300 lines of code in late 1996 have grown to 172,000 lines in March 2021.

Future

Our most important job is to “not rock the boat”. To provide the best and most solid Internet transfer library you can find, on as many platforms as possible.

But to remain attractive we also need to follow with the times and adapt to new protocols and new habits as they emerge. Support new protocol versions, enable better ways to do things and over time deprecate the bad things in responsible ways to not hurt users.

In the short term I think we want to work on making sure HTTP/3 works, make the Hyper backend really good and see where the rustls backend goes.

After 23 years we still don’t have any grand blue sky vision or road map items to guide us much. We go where Internet and our users lead us. Onward and upward!

The curl roadmap

23 curl numbers

Over the last few days ahead of this birthday, I’ve tweeted 23 “curl numbers” from the project using the #curl23 hashtag. Those twenty-three numbers and facts are included below.

2,200 lines of code by March 1998 have grown to 170,000 lines in 2021 as curl is about to turn 23 years old

14 different TLS libraries are supported by curl as it turns 23 years old

2,348 contributors have helped out making curl to what it is as it turns 23 years old

197 releases done so far as curl turns 23 years

6,787 bug-fixes have been logged as curl turns 23 years old

10,000,000,000 installations world-wide make curl one of the world’s most widely distributed 23 year-olds

871 committers have provided code to make curl a 23 year old project

935,000,000 is the official curl docker image pull-counter at (83 pulls/second rate) as curl turns 23 years old

22 car brands – at least – run curl in their vehicles when curl turns 23 years old

100 CI jobs run for every commit and pull-request in curl project as it turns 23 years old

15,000 spare time hours have been spent by Daniel on the curl project as it turns 23 years old

2 of the top-2 mobile operating systems bundle and use curl in their device operating systems as curl turns 23

86 different operating systems are known to have run curl as it turns 23 years old

250,000,000 TVs run curl as it turns 23 years old

26 transport protocols are supported as curl turns 23 years old

36 different third party libraries can optionally be built to get used by curl as it turns 23 years old

22 different CPU architectures have run curl as it turns 23 years old

4,400 USD have been paid out in total for bug-bounties as curl turns 23 years old

240 command line options when curl turns 23 years

15,600 GB data is downloaded monthly from the curl web site as curl turns 23 years old

60 libcurl bindings exist to let programmers transfer data easily using any language as curl turns 23 years old

1,327,449 is the total word count for all the relevant RFCs to read for curl’s operations as curl turns 23 years old

1 founder and lead developer has stuck around in the project as curl turns 23 years old

Credits

Image by AnnaER from Pixabay

Two years in

Neither a visa or a rejection yet, exactly two years since I completed my US visa application. Not a lot more to say that I haven’t already said before on this subject.

Of course I’m not surprised that I won’t get an approval in these travel-restricted Covid-19 times – as it would be a fine irony to get a visa and then not be allowed to travel anyway due to a general travel ban – but it also seems like the US immigration authorities haven’t yet used the pandemic as an excuse to (finally) just deny my application.

I was first prevented from traveling to the US on June 26 2017 (on ESTA) but it wasn’t until the following spring that I applied for a visa in an attempt to rectify the situation.

curl: 22 years in 22 pictures and 2222 words

curl turns twenty-two years old today. Let’s celebrate this by looking at its development, growth and change over time from a range of different viewpoints with the help of graphs and visualizations.

This is the more-curl-graphs-than-you-need post of the year. Here are 22 pictures showing off curl in more detail than anyone needs.

I founded the project back in the day and I remain the lead developer – but I’m far from alone in this. Let me take you on a journey and give you a glimpse into the curl factory. All the graphs below are provided in hires versions if you just click on them.

Below, you will learn that we’re constantly going further, adding more and aiming higher. There’s no end in sight and curl is never done. That’s why you know that leaning on curl for Internet transfers means going with a reliable solution.

Number of lines of code

Counting only code in the tool and the library (and public headers) it still has grown 80 times since the initial release, but then again it also can do so much more.

At times people ask how a “simple HTTP tool” can be over 160,000 lines of code. That’s basically three wrong assumptions put next to each other:

  1. curl is not simple. It features many protocols and fairly advanced APIs and super powers and it offers numerous build combinations and runs on just all imaginable operating systems
  2. curl supports 24 transfer protocols and counting, not just HTTP(S)
  3. curl is much more than “just” the tool. The underlying libcurl is an Internet transfer jet engine.

How much more is curl going to grow and can it really continue growing like this even for the next 22 years? I don’t know. I wouldn’t have expected it ten years ago and guessing the future is terribly hard. I think it will at least continue growing, but maybe the growth will slow down at some point?

Number of contributors

Lots of people help out in the project. Everyone who reports bugs, brings code patches, improves the web site or corrects typos is a contributor. We want to thank everyone and give all helpers the credit they deserve. They’re all contributors. Here’s how fast our list of contributors is growing. We’re at over 2,130 names now.

When I wrote a blog post five years ago, we had 1,200 names in the list and the graph shows a small increase in growth over time…

Daniel’s share of total commits

I started the project. I’m still very much involved and I spend a ridiculous amount of time and effort in driving this. We’re now over 770 commits authors and this graph shows how the share of commits I do to the project has developed over time. I’ve done about 57% of all commits in the source code repository right now.

The graph is the accumulated amount. Some individual years I actually did far less than 50% of the commits, which the following graph shows

Daniel’s share of commits per year

In the early days I was the only one who committed code. Over time a few others were “promoted” to the maintainer role and in 2010 we switched to git and the tracking of authors since then is much more accurate.

In 2014 I joined Mozilla and we can see an uptake in my personal participation level again after having been sub 50% by then for several years straight.

There’s always this argument to be had if it is a good or a bad sign for the project that my individual share is this big. Is this just because I don’t let other people in or because curl is so hard to work on and only I know my ways around the secret passages? I think the ever-growing number of commit authors at least show that it isn’t the latter.

What happens the day I grow bored or get run over by a bus? I don’t think there’s anything to worry about. Everything is free, open, provided and well documented.

Number of command line options

The command line tool is really like a very elaborate Swiss army knife for Internet transfers and it provides many individual knobs and levers to control the powers. curl has a lot of command line options and they’ve grown in number like this.

Is curl growing too hard to use? Should we redo the “UI” ? Having this huge set of features like curl does, providing them all with a coherent and understandable interface is indeed a challenge…

Number of lines in docs/

Documentation is crucial. It’s the foundation on which users can learn about the tool, the library and the entire project. Having plenty and good documentation is a project ambition. Unfortunately, we can’t easily measure the quality.

All the documentation in curl sits in the docs/ directory or sub directories in there. This shows how the amount of docs for curl and libcurl has grown through the years, in number of lines of text. The majority of the docs is in the form of man pages.

Number of supported protocols

This refers to protocols as in primary transfer protocols as in what you basically specify as a scheme in URLs (ie it doesn’t count “helper protocols” like TCP, IP, DNS, TLS etc). Did I tell you curl is much more than an HTTP client?

More protocols coming? Maybe. There are always discussions and ideas… But we want protocols to have a URL syntax and be transfer oriented to map with the curl mindset correctly.

Number of HTTP versions

The support for different HTTP versions has also grown over the years. In the curl project we’re determined to support every HTTP version that is used, even if HTTP/0.9 support recently turned disabled by default and you need to use an option to ask for it.

Number of TLS backends

The initial curl release didn’t even support HTTPS but since 2005 we’ve support customizable TLS backends and we’ve been adding support for many more ones since then. As we removed support for two libraries recently we’re now counting thirteen different supported TLS libraries.

Number of HTTP/3 backends

Okay, this graph is mostly in jest but we recently added support for HTTP/3 and we instantly made that into a multi backend offering as well.

An added challenge that this graph doesn’t really show is how the choice of HTTP/3 backend is going to affect the choice of TLS backend and vice versa.

Number of SSH backends

For a long time we only supported a single SSH solution, but that was then and now we have three…

Number of disclosed vulnerabilities

We take security seriously and over time people have given us more attention and have spent more time digging deeper. These days we offer good monetary compensation for anyone who can find security flaws.

Number of known vulnerabilities

An attempt to visualize how many known vulnerabilities previous curl versions contain. Note that most of these problems are still fairly minor and some for very specific use cases or surroundings. As a reference, this graph also includes the number of lines of code in the corresponding versions.

More recent releases have less problems partly because we have better testing in general but also of course because they’ve been around for a shorter time and thus have had less time for people to find problems in them.

Number of function calls in the API

libcurl is an Internet transfer library and the number of provided function calls in the API has grown over time as we’ve learned what users want and need.

Anything that has been built with libcurl 7.16.0 or later you can always upgrade to a later libcurl and there should be no functionality change and the API and ABI are compatible. We put great efforts into make sure this remains true.

The largest API additions over the last few year are marked in the graph: when we added the curl_mime_* and the curl_url_* families. We now offer 82 function calls. We’ve added 27 calls over the last 14 years while maintaining the same soname (ABI version).

Number of CI jobs per commit and PR

We’ve had automatic testing in the curl project since the year 2000. But for many years that testing was done by volunteers who ran tests in cronjobs in their local machines a few times per day and sent the logs back to the curl web site that displayed their status.

The automatic tests are still running and they still provide value, but I think we all agree that getting the feedback up front in pull-requests is a more direct way that also better prevent bad code from ever landing.

The first CI builds were added in 2013 but it took a few more years until we really adopted the CI lifestyle and today we have 72, spread over 5 different CI services (travis CI, Appveyor, Cirrus CI, Azure Pipelines and Github actions). These builds run for every commit and all submitted pull requests on Github. (We actually have a few more that aren’t easily counted since they aren’t mentioned in files in the git repo but controlled directly from github settings.)

Number of test cases

A single test case can test a simple little thing or it can be a really big elaborate setup that tests a large number of functions and combinations. Counting test cases is in itself not really saying much, but taken together and looking at the change over time we can at least see that we continue to put efforts into expanding and increasing our tests. It should also be considered that this can be combined with the previous graph showing the CI builds, as most CI jobs also run all tests (that they can).

Number of commits per month

A commit can be tiny and it can be big. Counting a commit might not say a lot more than it is a sign of some sort of activity and change in the project. I find it almost strange how the number of commits per months over time hasn’t changed more than this!

Number of authors per month

This shows number of unique authors per month (in red) together with the number of first-time authors (in blue) and how the amounts have changed over time. In the last few years we see that we are rarely below fifteen authors per month and we almost always have more than five first-time commit authors per month.

I think I’m especially happy with the retained high rate of newcomers as it is at least some indication that entering the project isn’t overly hard or complicated and that we manage to absorb these contributions. Of course, what we can’t see in here is the amount of users or efforts people have put in that never result in a merged commit. How often do we miss out on changes because of project inabilities to receive or accept them?

72 operating systems

Operating systems on which you can build and run curl for right now, or that we know people have ran curl on before. Most mortals cannot even list this many OSes off the top of their heads. If you know of any additional OS that curl has run on, please let me know!

20 CPU architectures

CPU architectures on which we know people have run curl. It basically runs on any CPU that is 32 bit or larger. If you know of any additional CPU architecture that curl has run on, please let me know!

32 third party dependencies

Did I mention you can build curl in millions of combinations? That’s partly because of the multitude of different third party dependencies you can tell it to use. curl support no less than 32 different third party dependencies right now. The picture below is an attempt to some sort of block diagram and all the green boxes are third party libraries curl can potentially be built to use. Many of them can be used simultaneously, but a bunch are also mutually exclusive so no single build can actually use all 32.

60 libcurl bindings

If you’re looking for more explanations how libcurl ends up being used in so many places, here are 60 more. Languages and environments that sport a “binding” that lets users of these languages use libcurl for Internet transfers.

Missing pictures

“number of downloads” could’ve been fun, but we don’t collect the data and most users don’t download curl from our site anyway so it wouldn’t really say a lot.

“number of users” is impossible to tell and while I’ve come up with estimates every now and then, making that as a graph would be doing too much out of my blind guesses.

“number of graphs in anniversary blog posts” was a contender, but in the end I decided against it, partly since I have too little data.

(Scripts for most graphs)

Future

Every anniversary is an opportunity to reflect on what’s next.

In the curl project we don’t have any grand scheme or roadmap for the coming years. We work much more short-term. We stick to the scope: Internet transfers specified as URLs. The products should be rock solid and secure. The should be high performant. We should offer the features, knobs and levers our users need to keep doing internet transfers now and in the future.

curl is never done. The development pace doesn’t slow down and the list of things to work on doesn’t shrink.

Happy 21st, curl!

Another year has passed. The curl project is now 21 years old.

I think we can now say that it is a grown-up in most aspects. What have we accomplished in the project in these 21 years?

We’ve done 179 releases. Number 180 is just a week away.

We estimate that there are now roughly 6 billion curl installations world-wide. In phones, computers, TVs, cars, video games etc. With 4 billion internet users, that’s like 1.5 curl installation per Internet connected human on earth

669 persons have authored patches that was merged.

The curl source code now consists of 160,000 lines of code made in over 24,000 commits.

1,927 persons have helped out so far. With code, bug reports, advice, help and more.

The curl repository also hosts 429 man pages with a total of 36,900 lines of documentation. That count doesn’t even include the separate project Everything curl which is a dedicated book on curl with an additional 10,165 lines.

In this time we have logged more than 4,900 bug-fixes, out of which 87 were security related problems.

We keep doing more and more CI builds, auto-builds, fuzzing and static code analyzing on our code day-to-day and non-stop. Each commit is now built and tested in over 50 different builds and environments and are checked by at least four different static code analyzers, spending upwards 20-25 CPU hours per commit.

We have had 2 curl developer conferences, with the third curl up about to happen this coming weekend in Prague, Czech Republic.

The curl project was created by me and I’m still the lead developer. Up until today, almost 60% of the commits in the project have my name on them. I have done most commits per month in the project every single month since August 2015, and in 186 months out of the 232 months for which we have logged data.

Twenty years, 1998 – 2018

Do you remember this exact day, twenty years ago? March 20, 1998. What exactly happened that day? I’ll tell you what I did then.

First a quick reminder of the state of popular culture at the time: three days later, on the 23rd, the movie Titanic would tangent the record and win eleven academy awards. Its theme song “My heart will go on” was in the top of the music charts around this time.

I was 27 years old and I worked full-time as a software engineer, mostly with embedded systems. I had already been developing software as a profession for several years then. At this moment in time I was involved as a consultant in a (rather boring) project for Ericsson Telecom ETX, in Nacka Strand in the south eastern general Stockholm area.

At some point during that Friday (I don’t remember the details, but presumably it happened during the late evening), I packaged up the source code of the URL transfer tool we were working on and uploaded it to my personal web site to share it with the world. It was the first release ever of the project under the new name: curl. The tool was already supporting HTTP, FTP and GOPHER – including uploads for the two first protocols.

It would take more than a year after this day until we started hosting the curl project on its own dedicated web site. curl.haxx.nu went live in August 1999, and it was changed again to curl.haxx.se in June the following year, a URL and name we’ve kept since.

(this is the first curl logo we used, made in 1998 by Henrik Hellerstedt)

In my flat in Solna (just north of Stockholm, Sweden) I already then spent a lot of spare time, mostly late nights, in front of my computer. Back then, an Intel Pentium 120Mhz based desktop PC with a huge 19″ Nokia CRT monitor, on which I dialed up to my work’s modem pool to access the Internet and to log in to the Unix machines there on which I did a lot of the early curl development. On SunOS, Solaris and Linux.

In Stockholm, that Friday started out with sub-zero degrees Celsius but the temperature climbed up to a few positive degrees during the day and there was no snow on the ground. Pretty standard March weather in Stockholm. This is usually a period when the light is slowly coming back (winters are really dark here) but the temperatures remind us that spring still isn’t quite here.

curl 4.0 was just a little more than 2000 lines of C code. It featured 23 command line options. curl 4.0 introduced support for the FTP PORT command and now it could do ftp uploads that append to the remote file. The version number was bumped up from the 3.12 which was the last version number used by the tool under the old name, urlget.

This is what the web site looked like in December 1998, the oldest capture I could find. Extracted from archive.org so unfortunately two graphical elements are missing!

It was far from an immediate success. An old note mentions how curl 4.8 (released the summer of 1998) was downloaded more than 300 times from the site. In August 1999, we counted 1300 weekly visits on the web site. It took time to get people to discover curl and make it into the tool users wanted. By September 1999 curl had already grown to 15K lines of code

In August 2000 we shipped the first version of libcurl: all the networking transfer powers of curl in a library, ready to be used by your applications. PHP was one of the absolutely first users of libcurl and that certainly helped to drive the early use.

A year later, in August 2001, when Apple started shipping curl by default in Mac OS X 10.1 curl was already widely available in Linux and BSD package collections.

By June 2002, we counted 13000 weekly visits on the site and we had grown to 35K lines of code. And it would not stop there…

Twenty years is both nothing at all and at the same time what feels like an eternity. Just three weeks before curl 4.0 shipped, Mozilla was founded. Google wasn’t founded until six months after. This was long before Facebook or Twitter had even been considered. Certainly a different era. Even the term open source was coined just a month prior to this curl release.

Growth factors over 20 years in the project:

Supported protocols: 7.67x
Command line options: 9x
Lines of code: 75x
Contributors: 100x
Weekly web site visitors: 1,400x
End users using (something that runs) the code: 4,000,000x
Stickers with the curl logo: infinity

Twenty years since the first ever curl release. Of course, it took time to make that first release too so the work is older. curl is the third name or incarnation of the project that I first got involved with already in late 1996…

 

curl is 18 years old tomorrow

Another notch on the wall as we’ve reached the esteemed age of 18 years in the cURL project. 9 releases were shipped since our last birthday and we managed to fix no less than a total of 457 bugs in that time.

18notches

On this single day in history…

20,000 persons will be visiting the web site, transferring over 4GB of data.

1.3 bug fixes will get pushed to the git repository (out of the 3 commits made)

300 git clones are made of the curl source tree, by 100 unique users.

4000 curl source archives will be downloaded from the curl web site

8 mails get posted on the curl mailing lists (at least one of them will be posted by me).

I will spend roughly 2 hours on curl related work. Mostly answering mail, bug reports and debugging, but also maintaining infrastructure, poke on the web site and if lucky, actually spending a few minutes writing new code.

Every human in the connected world will use at least one service,  tool or application that runs curl.

Happy birthday to us all!

curlyears plus equals one

BirthdaycakeThirteen years ago I released the first version of curl to the world – on March 20 1998. curl is now a teenage project and there’s no slowdown or end in sight.

So what does a project like ours introduce after having existed for so long? The recent year has been full of activities in the project, and here’s a run down with some of the stuff that has been going on:

We switched source code versioning system from CVS to git

gopher support got back into curl

support for RTMP was added

Two additional SSL libraries are now supported: PolarSSL and axTLS, making it a total of seven

70 persons provided code into the git repository, making the THANKS document now list 854 names.

About 1000 commits were made – out of a total of almost 14000 (counted from Dec 1999) so it makes this year slightly under average in terms of commit rate.

6 releases were shipped with a total of 179 bugfixes

1 security flaw was found and fixed

More than 4900 mails were posted to the curl mailing lists

We introduced a unit test system

Over 1400GB of data was downloaded from the curl web site

During the end of this period, 45% of our web visitors used Firefox, 23% used Chrome and less than 20% used IE. 75% were on Windows, 13% on Linux and 10% on Mac.

cURL

curl ten years today

Birthdaycake

On March 20th 1998 curl 4 was released. It was the first curl release ever even if already at version 4 since we kept the version number from the previous projects we did before curl – using other names. We started it all with having the tool named httpget (which was an existing small tool written by Rafael Sagula), soon changed name to urlget to end up with curl – all renames happening due to shifting features and focus.

Like many other projects, this started because of an itch. I wanted to get currency rates off the internet to allow an IRC bot to be able to provide an “exchange service” for users with accurate up-to-date rates. I thought the existing projects I found all did too much or did the wrong thing. That bot and service is now gone since long.

curl has been a truly portable project from day 1, and the first windows build was already urlget 2.1 (pre-curl). autoconf support for the build process was added in October 1998.

Unfortunately I don’t have the original release 4 tarball left anymore, the closest one I have is curl 4.8 (dated August 31 1998). curl 4.8 is about 3400 lines of code. Today we’re totaling in well over 100K source lines, so it has grown over 30 times!

I had no big plans for curl nor did I think very much about the future of the project. I just added the features I and my fellow contributors wanted to have for the moment. That’s actually pretty much how the project has continued to work. We don’t have many long-term plans for what to do with it, we mostly look just inches ahead of our noses and act accordingly.

During the version 6 period (Sep 1999 – Mar 2000) we learned that curl was getting popular, was useful and worked rather well, so the work on providing a libcurl started. We wanted to offer other applications the ability to use curl’s file transfer powers. Version 7.1 was released in August 2000 and thus libcurl was officially born.

curl and libcurl remained being a rather low-key project, I just work on it on my spare time and there are no full-time developers paid to work on this project – apart from some occasional sub-projects now and then that have been sponsored by companies and organizations. (See later on for an example.)

Slowly but surely more and more people started using libcurl and contributed with bug reports and patches. When the project turned 5 years in 2003 I collected all the names of all contributors so far and I reached the number 270. I found the number very high and I was mostly kidding when I said I hoped we would double that amount by the time we celebrate our tenth anniversary. Of course we’ve more than doubled that amount today when we have more than 620 named contributors so far – and continuously adding new ones with every release.

During this journey of a decade, I’ve remained the lead developer and project leader but we’re now some 10 developers with commit access (that also use it) and I try to be open and responsive in order to attract more developers to come aboard, to listen to their advice and ideas and to be sensitive on what our users want from us.

In 2005 I was lucky enough to get a grant from the Swedish IIS organization for the purpose of developing a new event-based API for libcurl to better deal with very large amount of connections, the problem so nicely called c10k.

In the days when our humble project turns 10, I spend about two hours spare time per day on the project and it is my primary hobby, we make 5-6 releases per year, we get about 7000 unique visitors on the web site a normal day, about one million curl packages are downloaded per year – from our servers.

Today, libcurl is feature-rich, portable, very widely used, very fast, well supported and there are no signs of stagnation in release nor development pace. In fact, looking at the source-code growth over the last couple of years we can see a pretty stable and continuous growth:

curl source code growth

Just as I never looked ahead and planned for the future much in the past, I don’t do that now either so I really don’t know and can’t tell what the future will hold for us. We’ll just continue to develop the world’s best client-side file transfer library, to make it even more solid for the foreseeable future, to make it do the things users and developers out there think it should do. Possibly that involves adding support for more protocols, removing some of the less popular ones or simply by enhancing how we support the existing ones.

Join the mailing lists and join us for the next ten years to come!