Tom Butler's programming blog

Git Forked: Goodbye GitHub, you'll be briefly missed

GitHub is about to join Lycos, Altavista, MySpace, GeoCities and its cousin SourceForge as a footnote in internet history. It's not a bad thing.

It's been digging its own grave for years and the recent sell out to Microsoft will be the final nail in the coffin. Sure it will linger for a few years but, like SourceForge, will become a graveyard of abandoned projects and gradually diminishing hold-outs.

All great empires fail

I've considered moving my projects away from GitHub for several years. I disagree with a lot of their policies: their racist/sexist code of conduct that they tried to push on others. Their statement that we can't discriminate by technical ability in software projects. Projects with words like "stupid" and "dumb" in the titles were given ultimatums and we were told merit didn't matter and people should accept pull requests for "diversity" instead of quality. They've made some *ahem* questionable hiring policies: they hired someone who forced a project to police unrelated, off-site activity by one of their contributors.

Such authoritarian behaviour by GitHub is worrying and one of the reasons the project has outlived its usefulness. Let us host code and name/manage the projects that we see fit. It's good to see GitHub's effective monopoly come crashing down.

However, since this stuff doesn't particularly affect me, the ubiquitous nature of GitHub made it better for my projects: Most developers already have a GitHub account so can report issues and submit code without needing to register on yet another website.

Now that Microsoft own GitHub we'll see a gradual move away by developers. Microsoft has never been good news for open source and I encourage anyone using GitHub to migrate to alternatives such as GitLab. This is a perfect time to leave.

Vote with your feet. Show big companies like Microsoft that they can't just buy everything and own it. If you don't like big companies controlling everything don't use them.

Sure, Microsoft may keep GitHub exactly as it is, but even if they don't make any changes, Microsoft owning GitHub is a problem. Can we trust them not to track users and mine data? We know about all the in built spyware in Windows 10, why would people using GitHub (a free service for now) be treated better than Microsoft's own paying customers?

Microsoft paid 7.5 billion dollars for GitHub. They wouldn't have done that if they didn't think they could make a profit from it over the long term.

If you have a closed source project hosted on GitHub then you have the most to worry about. We know that Microsoft have deals with the NSA. If you have a closed source project on GitHub, the NSA now have access to your source code. They are in a unique position that they can look through your code for exploits and nobody else outside your organization can. They can sit on a security hole safe in the knowledge that nobody else is going to alert you to it by using it.

My advice is: Get out while you can. At the moment GitHub's API allows quickly transferring your entire project to GitLab. Microsoft could easily choose to make this difficult in the future. Sure, you'll always be able to clone a public repository and all branches but Microsoft could choose to disable the API for importing issues, "projects" within repositories and wiki pages.

In short, there is no compelling reason to stay on GitHub and plenty of reasons to leave.

I don't think mass migrations to GitLab are the answer either because it opens GitLab up to the same issues that GitHub has faced. Who's to stop Apple or Google buying up GitLab in a month's time? I've got some ideas about what I'd like to see but I'll address that in another post.

For now, leave the sinking ship and man the GitLab lifeboats.

Update: the follow up article is now available here: Git Forked: The decentralised but better connected git ecosystem I'd like to see