Subversion is dead. Long live Subversion.

A group of Subversion developers recently met in New York in an attempt to come up with a plan for the future development of this source code management system; a summary of that meeting has now been posted. “Subversion has no future as a DVCS tool. Let’s just get that out there. At least two very successful such tools exist already, and to squeeze another horse into that race would be a poor investment of energy and talent. What’s more, huge classes of users remain categorically opposed to the very tenets on which the DVCS systems are based. They need centralization. They need control. They need meaningful path-based authorization. They need simplicity. In short, they desperately need Subversion. It’s this class of user — the corporate developer — that stands to benefit hugely from what Subversion brings to the party.” Read the whole thing for details on how they plan to meet that developer’s needs.
LWN: A proposed Subversion vision and roadmap
Thought this might be of interest after Matt’s Why Git Ain’t Better Than X. One nice point to emerge from both the discussion on Matt’s post and this article is that DVCS isn’t always the “be all and end all” solution for every project. One good example was in game development where the source media and graphics may be so big that the full workspace can’t be checked out at once, let alone the entire history. Similarly many people consider DVCSs are “just too damn hard to use”. For them, distributed development with it’s branching, merging and new commands, is just not worth the hassle for a small two or three person project.

After sitting into a “using git” tutorial held for my final year Software Engineering project, I could understand while people coming from the RCS/CVS/SVN world might find it tough. Despite a lot of commands being similarly named, there’s enough differences that you could easily shoot yourself in the foot by assuming that things will behave “just like Subversion, but better”.
“Enterprise-class centralized version control for the masses”
Does Subversion have a future? Possibly. There’s certainly enough projects that use Subversion that it’s not going away any time soon. Though my personal opinion is that they’ve arrived a little-too-late to the party to drag any of the large Open Source projects back from DVCS road.

If they can fix up a few of the fundamental problems with Subversion (branching/merging is difficult and dangerous, no support for tracking renames) and focused very much on what Subversion is good at (centralised workflow, supporting huge repositories, enterprise-like auth features) it could fill a nice gap in the market that DVCS aren’t suitable for. One thing that I’d like to see is improvements that would let Subversion be compelling “central repository backend” for the wide variety of DVCS that exist.

On the other-hand, we have Bazaar – and it’s here today. 😊