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Roland McGrath steps down as glibc maintainer after 30 years

Open source is only for two-thirds of a life, says veteran

By Richard Chirgwin, 10 Jul 2017

Open source luminary Roland McGrath has decided “enough is enough” – after 30 years on the GNU compiler library project.

As a teenager in 1987 – working back from the age he gives in his mailing list post, as a 15-year-old, in fact – McGrath began writing glibc, and he reckons that devoting “two thirds of my lifespan so far” is “long enough”.

The library's purpose was to deliver the functionality required in an ANSI-standard C library, and the Free Software Foundation said that mission was “nearly complete” in February 1988.

“So, I'm hereby declaring myself maintainer emeritus and withdrawing from direct involvement in the project. These past several months, if not the last few years, have proven that you don't need me any more”, he continues.

Some individuals, he says, have contributed more to the project than McGrath, and the collective effort has done “far more than I ever could have”.

“I'm especially grateful to the small handful of folks who contributed in the early days when so much was so different than it is today; to the diehard few who've hung on through all the changes and tribulations over the many years; and to those, old and new, who have come together in recent years to breathe new life into the project and steer us towards becoming the vital community that the project and its users have always deserved.”

That's more than a nod towards controversies that emerged in the early 2000s when, after McGrath successor and prolific contributor Ulrich Drepper had spent some time as maintainer, a steering committee to oversee glibc was created.

That committee lasted 11 years, when it disbanded itself in favour of a community-driven process. McGrath endorses that process in his farewell:

“All in all, I have no doubt at all that the job you're doing now and will do in the future maintaining glibc is better than I ever did that job myself and at least as good as my presence in the project might ever make it.”

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