Deleting Content From Fossil

Deleting Content From Fossil

Fossil is designed to keep all historical content forever. Users of Fossil are discouraged from "deleting" content simply because it has become obsolete. Old content is part of the historical record (part of the "fossil record") and should be maintained indefinitely. Such is the design intent of Fossil.

Nevertheless, there may occasionally arise legitimate reasons for deleting content. Such reasons might include:


Fossil provides a mechanism called "shunning" for removing content from a repository.

Every Fossil repository maintains a list of the SHA1 hash names of "shunned" artifacts. Fossil will refuse to push or pull any shunned artifact. Furthermore, all shunned artifacts (but not the shunning list itself) are removed from the repository whenever the repository is reconstructed using the "rebuild" command.

Shunning lists are local state

The shunning list is part of the local state of a Fossil repository. In other words, shunning does not propagate using the normal "sync" mechanism. An artifact can be shunned from one repository but be allowed to exist in another. The fact that the shunning list does not propagate is a security feature. If the shunning list propagated then a malecious user (or a bug in the fossil code) might introduce a shun record that would propagate through all respositories in a network and permanently destroy vital information. By refusing to propagate the shunning list, Fossil insures that no remote user will ever be able to remove information from your personal repositories without your permission.

The shunning list does not propagate by the normal "sync" mechanism, but it is still possible to copy shuns from one repository to another using the "configuration" command:

fossil configuration pull shun remote-url
fossil configuration push shun remote-url

The two command above will pull or push shunning lists from or to the remote-url indicated and merge the lists on the receiving end. "Admin" privilege on the remote server is required in order to push a shun list.

Note that the shunning list remains in the respository even after the shunned artifact has been removed. This is to prevent the artifact from being reintroduced into the repository the next time it syncs with another repository that has not shunned the artifact.

Managing the shunning list

The complete shunning list for a repository can be viewed by a user with "admin" privilege on the "/shunned" URL of the web interface to Fossil. That URL is accessible under the "Admin" button on the default menu bar. Items can be added to or removed from the shunning list. "Sync" operations are inhibited as soon as the artifact is added to the shunning list, but the content of the artifact is not actually removed from the responstory until the next time the repository is rebuilt.

When viewing individual artifacts with the web interface, "admin" users will usually see a "Shun" option in the submenu that will take them directly to the shunning page and enable that artifact to be shunned with a single additional mouse click.