1.1. History

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:

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:

Despite the upheavals over the years, all the code is still licensed to everyone under the GNU Software Licences (GPL and LGPL).