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Graduation: A Short History of Apache Stanbol

There is great news for the open-source project Apache Stanbol. With the recent resolution of the board of directors of the Apache Software Foundation (ASF), the incubating project Apache Stanbol becomes a top-level project at the ASF. This is a big and important step to ensure that the work that has started in the EU IKS project will survive after the projects ends in December 2012. So let’s have a look at the history of Apache Stanbol so far.

Apache Stanbol was founded in November 2010 by the community initiated by the EU research project IKS. It was the result of an ongoing discussion about how to ensure that the results, especially the developed software, of IKS would be available to vendors of content management systems (CMS) after the project’s official funding period ends.

With the help of Bertrand Delacretaz, who is both member of the IKS project and a well-known figure in the ASF, the other IKS members learned how to initiate a project at the ASF and Apache Stanbol started its life in the Apache Incubator program.


Timeline of the IKS and Apache Stanbol history

One of the first code imports of Apache Stanbol was the so called “Furtwangen IKS Semantic Engine” (FISE) which eventually became the Apache Stanbol Enhancer with its Enhancement Engines. Other  contributions of code were the KReS (Knowledge Representation and Reasoning) and the RICK (Reference Infrastructure for Content and Knowledge) components. Later on followed the Contenthub, while KReS was split into the Apache Stanbol Ontology Manager and Reasoner components, and the RICK is today known as the Apache Stanbol Entityhub.

With these contributions the team had to manage a lot of renaming and refactoring work to organize the available code in the new project. A big issue was to apply the licensing and distribution rules that are enforced by the ASF. All dependencies on third party libraries and components, had to be checked for compatibility with the Apache License. Some code needed to be removed or rewritten as dependencies with incompatible licenses needed to be removed.

At the same time other projects around the topic of linked data and semantic technologies were initiated in the Apache Incubator. For example Apache Clerezza, Apache Jena, and Apache OpenNLP are all projects that are used by Apache Stanbol and that came to the ASF. This means that there is now a cluster of projects around semantic technologies at the ASF. Apache Stanbol benefits also from this since it uses several of these other technologies. For the other projects it was important to realize how much value their technology had for Apache Stanbol. It was great to see how people started to understand that you can do really cool things with all these technologies and Apache Stanbol quickly became the perfect playground to demonstrate the potential.

At the end of 2011 Apache Stanbol was improved and actively developed by the IKS members who became committers of the project <Committers List>. The software was demonstrated during several IKS events and used by a lot of early adopters from the CMS market. The community grew and people from outside of the IKS project became aware of Apache Stanbol and started to contribute. But what was still missing was a successful release of Apache Stanbol that conformed to the ASF release policies. It took the project another five months until the build and deployment system was set up to easily create release bundles of the Apache Stanbol stack and of related components.

By the middle of 2012 Apache Stanbol had demonstrated that it has an active community and is able to produce software and releases according to the ASF standards. The community had learnt how to do things the “Apache way” and decided that it was time to graduate from the incubator. After preparing and voting for a formal resolution to establish Apache Stanbol as a top-level project the proposal was sent to the board of directors of the ASF. With their acceptance of the resolution on 2012-09-19 Apache Stanbol finally became a standalone top-level project.

In the coming weeks we will see some infrastructure changes for Apache Stanbol. The code, website, and mailing lists will be moved to their new location outside the incubator. Once this has been done, we plan a series of releases that were kept in the pipeline during the graduation process. As a top-level project the Apache Stanbol team will be able to produce releases much faster and hopefully establish a regular release cycle that the users can count on.

Stay tuned!

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Author: Fabian

I'm a software engineer and researcher in the field of model-based software development with focus on software architectures and application frameworks at the Software Quality Lab (s-lab) of the University of Paderborn. I'm passionate about open-source software development and an active developer of the Apache Stanbol project.

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