In the Norwegian town of Svalbard there is a vault containing over 900,000 seeds of the world’s most valuable plants and crops. The vault, more than 100 metres within a mountain, opened in 2008 to preserve the seeds in any sort of large scale crisis or doomsday scenario.

Next year, Microsoft’s US$7.5 billion code vault company, GitHub, will deposit copies of millions of lines of code in a similar site, a decommissioned mine just up the road from the Svalbard seed vault known as the Arctic World Archive.

The facility stores digital copies of the world’s most valuable artifacts, like a digitised version of the Vatican Library or digital copies of famous paintings in case of any natural or man-made disasters.

Next year GitHub will deposit “every active public repository on GitHub”, essentially all the code from every open source software project.

The “GitHub Arctic Code Vault” vault already contains an archive of thousands of the most critical open source projects but the company wants to add all public repositories for safekeeping.

Every public repository – the code banks which manage open source software – which has been active in the previous year will be snapshotted on February 2, 2020, and added to the vault in the northern hemisphere spring.

The data is encoded on physical microfilm like frames which can be read with a magnifying glass. Each frame contains 8.8 million pixels and is designed to last over 1,000 years.

GitHub CEO Nat Friedman announced the additions to the vault on stage at GitHub Universe in San Francisco. He said the software was now fundamental to the development of humanity and it should be protected.

“Nothing big will ever happen again without software,” Friedman told the crowd of developers at Universe. “It’s almost crazy or outlandish to say it but human progress actually depends on open source. So the code [developers] write is important. 

“It matters, it should be preserved.”

GitHub’s Arctic Code Vault is part of its wider archive initiative known as the GitHub Archive Program. The collaborative effort includes fellow tech companies, universities and non-profits.

Program partner the Internet archive builds and maintains the “Wayback Machine”, a digital archive of the World Wide Web and other information on the internet. While GitHub parent Microsoft is developing a new glass storage medium which it claims can preserve data for 10,000 years.

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