The origins of EMBOSS go back to the early 1980s when the prevailing general-purpose molecular biology software was a commercial package called GCG. GCG made the source code for the programming libraries available, which allowed new programs to be developed quickly and efficiently. By 1988 a collaboration of groups within the European Molecular Biology Network (EMBnet) and elsewhere had produced a package of extensions to GCG called EGCG. This provided support for core sequence activities at the Sanger Centre, and was the basis of new sequence analysis software for internal use. It provided advanced features in use at approximately 150 sites, and for more than 10,000 users of EMBnet national services. Community development proceeded until GCG stopped releasing its source code, which meant it was no longer possible to distribute the source for any software that used the libraries. This effectively killed the future development of EGCG. It is from this background that EMBOSS was born.
EMBOSS was instigated in 1996 by Peter Rice and Alan Bleasby in collaboration with Thure Etzold. The original aims of the project were quite ambitious:
Replace popular but obsolete "EGCG" applications.
Develop new tools for sequence analysis.
Integrate with public packages: SRS and ACEDB.
Integrate with popular user interface packages.
Integrate with other publicly available packages and tools.
Encourage developers to use the EMBOSS libraries.
An early version of AJAX C programming library that underpins EMBOSS was completed in August 1996 and was later made available under what was then called the GNU Lesser General Public License. A potted history of EMBOSS serves to illustrate the resilience of the GNU software licences:
1977 Fred Sanger sequences FX174 with computing by Rodger Staden.
1996 EMBOSS started by Peter Rice (Sanger Centre, Hinxton) and Alan Bleasby (SEQNET, Daresbury) in collaboration with Thure Etzold (European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), Hinxton).
1997 Wellcome Trust proposal submitted (February) by Sanger Centre, UK MRC Human Genome Mapping Project Resource Centre (HGMP-RC) and EMBL-EBI and is accepted (August). Project started (November).
1998 SEQNET relocated to Hinxton (HGMP-RC).
1999 Thure goes to LION Bioscience.
2000 Peter leaves Sanger. EMBOSS co-ordination taken over by Alan at HGMP-RC. Jon Ison, Gary Williams and Tim Carver begin working on the project.
2000 EMBOSS 1.0.0 released on 15th July 2000.
2001 LION Bioscience (Peter) adds EMBOSS to SRS and updates EMBOSS.
2001 BBSRC provides funding for EMBOSS development via CCP11.
2001 EMBOSS 2.0.0 released on 15th July 2001.
2002 Peter leaves LION.
2003 Peter joins EMBL-EBI integrating EMBOSS in myGrid services.
2003 Medical Research Council terminates funding for Rodger Staden. MRC still "owns" the Staden package. Rodger Staden retires.
2003 HGMP-RC is renamed (by MRC) to be the Rosalind Franklin Centre for Genomics Research (RFCGR).
2004 April 1st: MRC announces RFCGR will be closed within 15 months.
2005 EMBOSS 3.0.0 released on 15th July 2005.
2005 BBSRC provides three years funding for two EMBOSS developers.
2005 Alan Bleasby and Jon Ison move to EMBL-EBI; Tim Carver moves to Sanger.
2006 EMBOSS 4.0.0 released on 15th July 2006.
2007 EMBOSS 5.0.0 released on 15th July 2007.
2008 EMBOSS 6.0.0 released on 15th July 2008.
2009 EMBOSS 6.1.0 released on 15th July 2009.
2010 EMBOSS 6.2.0 released on 15th January 2010.
2010 EMBOSS 6.3.0 re\ leased on 15th July 2010.<
2011 EMBOSS 6.4.0 re\ leased on 15th July 2011.<
Despite the upheavals over the years, all the code is still licensed to everyone under the GNU Software Licences (GPL and LGPL).