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Software Engineering

Open Source Project of the Month: OpenSSL

OpenSSL at a glance:
The OpenSSL Project is responsible for developing and maintaining the OpenSSL software: a general-purpose cryptographic toolkit for ensuring secure communications.Quick project stats:

  • 654 Contributors
  • 935 Watching
  • 7,900 Forks
  • 18,200 Stars
  • Languages Used: C, Perl, Assembly, Shell, C++, Raku

Find more info at:

(As of April 22, 2022)

What is the OpenSSL open source project?

The OpenSSL Project has grown from humble beginnings to become an integral part of the modern internet. Started in 1998 to provide free encryption tools for an internet that was still in its teens, OpenSSL software is now used by most HTTPS websites. An open source implementation of the SSL and TLS protocols, OpenSSL is designed to secure network communications from eavesdropping or the need to identify the other party.

Who’s running the OpenSSL open source project?

The OpenSSL Project is responsible for overseeing the development of the OpenSSL software. The OpenSSL Technical Committee makes technical decisions, such as design or architecture. Meanwhile, the OpenSSL Management Committee handles things like management and strategic direction. There are currently 12 people on the technical committee and seven on the management committee.

OpenSSL open source goals

OpenSSL’s simplicity, breadth of functionality, and openness have made it the industry standard for generating SSL certificates. As a result, it’s become integral to the functioning of the modern internet. And as the world is advancing and changing, so too is OpenSSL.

To that end, there are several important features in the works for OpenSSL, including:

●   Argon2 KDFs

●   Attribute Certificates

●   Hybrid Public Key Encryption

●   Raw Public Keys

Also on the roadmap are:

●   Implementation of the QUIC transport protocol

●   Validation of the OpenSSL FIPS provider for 3.x

●   Review of post-quantum cryptographic algorithms by the Open Quantum Safe project in advance of standardization

See Zenhub at work

OpenSSL is, in a word, massive. Managing so many contributors who are not only working on issues but creating them would be a full-time job at least. Zenhub’s visibility features, however, vastly simplify that job. By using Zenhub’s pipelines extensively, the team has retained visibility without losing granularity. Team members can home in on specifics as precisely as they need to without worrying about getting lost in the weeds.

The extensive use of labels has supplemented this. By using a wide variety of labels, the team has been able to get the high-level visibility necessary to keep track of such a large project.

OpenSSL's Labels

The team has also made creative use of Zenhub’s Epics feature to group sample code showing how to use new APIs. And within that Epic, team members have been able to leverage Zenhub’s built-in estimation feature to create estimates without leaving GitHub.

Why you should contribute

OpenSSL isn’t just an old project. It’s one of the frontrunners of the entire open source movement, and it’s embedded directly into the fabric of the internet. Google’s HTTPS Everywhere campaign made having SSL certificates all but mandatory.

And far from being left behind, OpenSSL is still on the cutting edge of open source, with work underway to bring OpenSSL into the quantum computing age, among other things.

Participating isn’t just about joining one of the longest-standing open source projects: it’s also about helping it move into the future.

Where you can learn more

If you’d like to get involved or learn more:

Check out their GitHub

Sign up for one of their mailing lists

Read our guide on how to get started as a contributor

Download the Zenhub browser extension and check out OpenSSL’s Zenhub board

Zenhub offers the tools and workflows that teams working on open source projects in GitHub need. It puts core open source collaboration principles like openness and transparency into practice, enabling projects and organizations to code in the open. It’s the only industry tool to manage your team’s work across both public and private repos. And it makes it easier for all team members to communicate with each other, set goals, plan with more transparency and participation, and ship releases more predictably. Get a free 14-day trial here.


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