Looking Back and Moving Forward: Fedora at 20

Austin, TX  This year marks the 20th anniversary of the creation of the original Flexible Extensible Digital Object Repository Architecture (Fedora) by Sandy Payette and Carl Lagoze at Cornell University in 1997. To celebrate the two decades of community innovation in the ongoing open source development of the flexible, modular, repository platform, we look back on a history [1] of achievement in delivering more than 4 major versions of the software. The anniversary will be celebrated at user group meetings throughout the year. As we prepare for the next major release aligned with the Fedora API specification, we will move to true semantic versioning to reflect our community’s commitment to implementing standard software development best practices.

In remembering the anniversary Sandy Payette, Director of IT for Research and Scholarship at Cornell University Library, said,

“In 1997, I developed the original Fedora reference implementation to provide a flexible digital object model and an interoperable repository motivated by our vision of a distributed digital library architecture (Payette and Lagoze).  Later, the “flexible” and “extensible” Fedora was released as open source by the first Fedora team, providing digital objects with “semantic relationships” and a “durable” repository service that could enable preservation of digital objects.  In the 20 years since the original Fedora, these first principles have held true as the community collaborated to extend, evolve, re-imagine, and re-implement Fedora.  I am honored to have been the catalyst for the innovations of the Fedora community and I see a bright future driven by the passion and commitment of so many.”


Fedora community members who attended The West Coast Fedora Camp, hosted by the Caltech Library at the California Institute of Technology's Keck Institute for Space Studies in April of 2016.

As the Fedora project and community continues to evolve, there are two signs of maturity that the community is encouraged to know about.

Last year, the community considered a move to semantic versioning for Fedora [2]. The overwhelming consensus amongst Fedora stakeholders is that we should move to standard semantic versioning.  In semantic versioning, each of the three positions of the version number have very specific meaning [3]:

Given a version number MAJOR.MINOR.PATCH, increment the:

   1. MAJOR version when you make incompatible API changes,

   2. MINOR version when you add functionality in a backwards-compatible manner, and

   3. PATCH version when you make backwards-compatible bug fixes.

The next major release of Fedora will be Fedora 5.0.0 (rather than 4.8.0), followed by 6.0.0 (or 5.1.0, or 5.0.1 as appropriate), and so on. This change only reflects the adoption of standard semantic versioning and does not imply a radical change like the move from Fedora 3.x to Fedora 4.x. Fedora 5.0.0 will be functionally equivalent to what would have been a 4.8.0 release.

Secondly, along with this change, the community has voiced an interest in slowing down the pace of major releases. To this end, we will aim to publish one major release per year, though minor and patch releases will be published as needed. This means you can expect to see Fedora 5.0.0 by the end of 2017, but Fedora 6.0.0 will not be released until sometime in 2018.

Fedora community members who attended Fedora Camp NYC, hosted by Columbia University in New York City in November of 2016.

The road to Fedora’s future

Early versions of Fedora focused on developing a general-purpose management layer for digital objects in collaboration with a growing worldwide community of users. In 2008 the Fedora project released Fedora 3.0 with a new Content Model Architecture that made the software more scalable and a “better fit” for integration with the Web.

Fedora 4.0 was released in 2014 with vast improvements in scalability, linked data capabilities, research data support, modularity, ease of use and more. This major release was made possible because a dedicated team of developers and stakeholders from around the globe contributed to its success. With DuraSpace support a committed team continues to ensure that Fedora Repository software will meet the emerging needs of the academic research community now and into the future.

Please contact David Wilcox with any questions about the Fedora Project <dwilcox@duraspace.org>.

Happy birthday Fedora!


[1] http://fedorarepository.org/about

[2] https://groups.google.com/d/msg/fedora-tech/sTB7XzQn1ik/Cndo0fY7EgAJ

[3] http://semver.org/