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.
GitHub, Microsoft, Open source: why such a
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:
🤔 We put all our eggs in the same basket for years and we’re only concerned when the basket is bought by someone lots of us don’t trust.
😳 Whether you call it a SPOF or a monopoly, the problem was already there!#gitpocalypse
— Hubert SABLONNIÈRE 😎 (@hsablonniere) 4 juin 2018
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 firstname.lastname@example.org!
May the source be with you.
|↑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|