GitHub buries 21 TB of open-source code in Arctic Code vault for 1,000 years

GitHub buries 21 TB of open-source code in Arctic Code vault for 1,000 years

GitHub buries 21 TB of open-source code in Arctic Code vault for 1,000 years

Github, the world’s leading software development platform last year at Github Universe 2019 revealed its plan to store all of its open-source software data in an Arctic vault as part of its Archive Program. Now the code-hosting platform is done making sure that future generations can access them even if the civilization collapses within the next 1,000 years.

GitHub Inc. said that it has delivered a copy of all of the open-source software code stored on its website to a data repository at the Arctic World Archive, which is a very long-term archival facility buried 250 meters deep in the vault of an Arctic mountain.


On February 2, 2020, GitHub took a snapshot of all active public repositories on the site. In computer terms, snapshot refers to the copy of a system captured at a particular point in time. So yeah, Github is archiving all of its open-source code, just how you back up a disk drive to ensure your files are more secure for future use. The data is stored in an archive called the GitHub Arctic Code Vault, which it says has been built to last for a thousand years.

Julia Metcalf, the director of strategic programs at GitHub said –

“The code landed in Longyearbyen, a town of a few thousand people on Svalbard, where our boxes were met by a local logistics company and taken into intermediate secure storage overnight. The next morning, it traveled to the decommissioned coal mine set in the mountain, and then to a chamber deep inside hundreds of meters of permafrost, where the code now resides fulfilling their mission of preserving the world’s open-source code for over 1,000 years”.

In the blog post, GitHub said that they carried out the operation in partnership with a long-term data storage company called Piql, which copied the entire contents of its active public repositories and wrote that 21 terabytes of data to 186 reels of hardened microfilm. The microfilm was then shipped to the island of Svalbard in Norway, which is located inside the Arctic Circle, and transported to a decommissioned coal mine set within a mountain 250 meters deep and that’s now home to the Arctic World Archive.

The Arctic World Archive is located in a decommissioned coal mine on an island in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. Thanks to its cool, dry conditions, the area is proving popular for archivists. After all, it’s just down the road from another famous storage system, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which is protecting samples of seeds of many important crops in case of disaster.

On July 8, 2020, GitHub deposited 21 TB of data into the Archive, beneath 250 m (820 ft) of permafrost. This data drop consisted of a snapshot of all active public repositories on GitHub as of February 2, 2020, encoded in the form of tiny QR codes imprinted on 186 archival film reels.

These specially-designed film reels are developed by a company called Piql. They’re made of silver halides on polyester and, according to simulated aging tests conducted by Piql, this material can last for up to 1,000 years.

GitHub says that the next phase of the project is to develop what they call the Tech Tree. This guide will also be printed on film, but will be readable by sight, to help people recover the data in the future. The company is currently seeking help from its own community to create this document, which will be added to the vault at a later date.

Meanwhile, those same future historians might struggle to glean any useful info out of a long-broken computer. And it’s already happening, as anybody who’s tried to get data off an old floppy disk can attest.

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