When you first start messing around with the command line, you may feel like there is an impermeable wall between the local space you’re messing around with and the larger Internet. On your side, you have your commands and files, and off the wall, there are servers, images, APIs, web pages, and more useful and ever-changing bits of data. One of the most popular ways through that wall has been cURL, or “client URL,” which celebrates its 25th birthday this month.
cURL began as a way for programmer Daniel Stenberg to allow Internet Chat Relay users to quickly fetch currency exchange rates while inside their chat window. As detailed in Archived history of the project, originally created through an existing command-line tool, httpget, created by Rafael Sagula. The 1.0 version was released in 1997, and then the name was changed to urlget by 2.0, as it was added in GOPHER, FTP and other protocols. By 1998, the tool could be uploaded and downloaded, and so version 4.0 was named cURL.
Over the next few years, cURL grew to include nearly every Internet protocol, works with certificates and ciphers, provides links for more than 50 languages, and is included in most Linux distributions and other systems. The cURL project now includes both the command line command itself and the libcurl library. In 2020, the project history estimates that the command and library have been installed in more than 10 billion instances worldwide.
How do you celebrate an indispensable piece of internet architecture that turns 25? Stenberg plans to host a “Zoom birthday party” at the 17:00 UTC on March 20. Double-check that time in your area: “It’s within this weird period in between [when] The US has switched to daylight savings time while Europe hasn’t yet.” Stenberg writes on his blog. Stenberg plans to sip Bowmore Islay single-malt scotch for 25 years, providing a history of the project and future plans while answering questions. (A link will be added to the Zoom call Stenberg blog post closer to March 20th.)
Because of its near-universal compatibility and availability, cURL remains a vital tool for grabbing web page contents, prompting APIs, testing site availability and response time, and much more. Data has been moved around Since the birth of Tom Holland; It’s definitely worth a little party.