And all of a sud­den, Microsoft is acquir­ing GitHub, infu­ri­at­ing the open source com­mu­ni­ty in the last days. Behind the angry tweets, there’s a real­iza­tion that a monop­o­lis­tic sit­u­a­tion may jeop­ar­dize the open source ecosys­tem. Seems about time to dis­cuss why decen­tral­iza­tion is nec­es­sary, and to present our ini­tia­tive: the open source projects sup­port­ing.

Windy Mary Poppins GIF @Giphy

GitHub, Microsoft, Open source: why such a shitthunderstorm?

GitHub is a closed source plat­form based on an open source project: Git. Git is a dis­trib­uted ver­sion con­trol sys­tem. It allows devel­op­ers, design­ers, edi­tors, etc. to save their projects step by step on a time­line. They can keep track of what has been done, by whom, when, and they can roll-back some mod­i­fi­ca­tions if need­ed, or even start their projects again from a past-state1). While Git only brought the ver­sion con­trol sys­tem, GitHub enriched it by adding social fea­tures like issue-track­ing, doc­u­men­ta­tion wikis, col­lab­o­ra­tion tools (the pull-requests), reviews, and many more.

GitHub is a SaaS2) solu­tion, that is avail­able in two fla­vors: freely for open source projects; under a fee or on-premise for pri­vate repos­i­to­ries in their enter­prise edi­tion. It quick­ly gained the atten­tion from the open source com­mu­ni­ty due to its sim­plic­i­ty of use, and to its “social” tools. It then grew as the cen­tral place for open source projects for the last ten years.

Maybe you’ve already noticed the para­dox. Let’s start again: Git is a dis­trib­uted sys­tem; GitHub has grown as a cen­tral place. The nev­erend­ing war about decen­tral­iz­ing the Web. Year after year, because many projects use the plat­form, and because it’s easy, it became the place to be when you released your open source project. It gave vis­i­bil­i­ty, quick and sim­ple access to an upcom­ing com­mu­ni­ty. It even became a way to dis­trib­ute depen­den­cies as code, many lan­guages choos­ing to use it as a native back­end (see Golang, Node.js, etc.)

However, a sin­gle place to host every­thing means you take a con­sid­er­able risk if it fails. As Hubert Sablonnière said:

So it is. Or so it seemed to be for many defend­ers of the free and open source phi­los­o­phy when Microsoft recent­ly announced its inten­tion to acquire GitHub. Thousands of open source con­trib­u­tors have been there for many years, and many of them have seen how Microsoft act­ed in the past. Even if Microsoft is now quite involved in open source con­tri­bu­tions, some of them are fright­ened by this announce­ment, and start to think to what Microsoft has in mind for the future of GitHub. So far, they main­ly spoke about cloud deploy­ment inte­gra­tion, but what will hap­pen to GitHub’s dri­ven projects like Hubot, elec­tron, Atom, etc.?.

This acqui­si­tion painful­ly revives the debate around decen­tral­iza­tion, this time from the developer’s side. Maybe some projects will inde­pen­dent­ly host their sources to stay away from the GAFAM and their monop­oly. Do not for­get that Git is decen­tral­ized by default3). GitHub is only a plat­form. The choice is still yours.

So, what is alwaysdata doing for open source?

We believe in open source. We based our solu­tion on the Django frame­work; every third-par­ty soft­ware we use for host­ing is open source; we some­times release some of our inter­nal devs (see Deploy at light­ning speed with Git hooks). It was time to give back to the com­mu­ni­ty: this is why we offer a free 10Go plan for open source projects.

We think that many alter­na­tives are more valu­able than a sin­gle offer, even if this one is great. Earlier this year, we made a test with the Sailor frame­work project: as we are one of the only host­ing providers to bring sup­port for Lua native­ly, they con­tact­ed us to know if we were able to con­clude a part­ner­ship. We then start­ed to think about what we could do for open source. We already had a 100Mo free plan, which was a bit small for open source projects; what if we offered a 10Go plan, for free?

Open source projects, this is our con­tri­bu­tion: if you need to find a way to host your project (repos­i­to­ries, web­sites, demos, etc.), you can do it on always­da­ta for free. We will nev­er charge you for any­thing. We lim­it the account to host open source, active, projects only.

We don’t expect the whole open source com­mu­ni­ty comes to alwaysdata4). But the world needs as many good-mind­ed, respect­ful alter­na­tive to oth­er OSS com­pli­ant host­ing solu­tion as there may be. If you want to ben­e­fit from this offer, get in touch at community@alwaysdata.com!

May the source be with you.

Notes   [ + ]

1. it’s a very sim­plis­tic point of view, Git is even more pow­er­ful
2. Software as a Service
3. yes, you can have mul­ti­ple remotes for a repos­i­to­ry, and if you host all the his­to­ry of your project local­ly, you don’t have to stick to a plat­form. Did you know it?
4. but we wel­come any project who think our offer fit its needs