Fifteen years ago I released a little network protocol analyzer. At the time it wasn’t very special. It only dissected five protocols and only ran on Linux and Solaris. I decided to share it with the world and released it as open source. I made use of quite a bit of open source software at that point (and still do), and it seemed like a good way to give back to the community.
Immediately after the release an amazing thing happened — I started receiving code from people around the world. They had problems similar to mine and were able to modify the little analyzer to suit their needs. They were also kind enough to contribute those modifications back. Those contributions haven’t stopped to this day and Wireshark has grown into a mature, feature-rich, award-winning network analysis tool. People around the world use it to troubleshoot networks, develop software and protocols, and to learn about networking.
Wireshark has been a source of pride many times over the years but I’m particularly proud of two accomplishments. First, your network is not a black box. This is important inasmuch as our daily lives depend on networks operating efficiently, reliably and securely. Wireshark lets you peer into your network and see how it operates at a low level. It’s also accessible. Anyone can download and run it. Protocol analysis is a fascinating world and if you don’t understand what you’re looking it we have a large community of users and educators that can help you.
Second, it turns out that a protocol analyzer makes a great open source project and Wireshark is an example of open source at its best. People who know a lot about protocols are typically know how to write software. If you provide a platform that allows them to give meaning and context to the bits and bytes that make up network packets they will do so on a massive scale. Wireshark now supports over 1,000 protocols and 140,000 different protocol fields and those numbers keep growing.
We’ve had quite a few challenges in the past and we still do. These days all of your interesting traffic is either off in the cloud or speeding across your LAN at multiple gigabits a second. Wireshark doesn’t run on my tablet and it looks awful on my Macbook. However, these are solvable problems and I’m looking forward to the challenge of fixing them.
When I made that first release I had no idea how big it would become or how much it would impact my life. Wireshark is a great and wonderful thing due to the following people:
- The development team, who seem to generate an endless stream of brilliance and cleverness.
- The user community, for their knowledge and enthusiasm, and for putting up with the odd wart here and there.
- Educators, researchers, developers, and everyone else who help people peer into their networks.
- My employer for sponsoring the project and being such an awesome place to work, and my co-workers for their passion for network performance.
- My family and friends, for their support and encouragement over the years.
It’s been a wonderful journey so far and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead. Thank you all.