Despite backlash, Microsoft sticks with controversial “GVFS” name

Sam Johnson
Jun 3, 2018 · 3 min read

note: original GitHub issue:

UPDATE: Microsoft has decided to change the name.

Visit to suggest new names for GVFS. Thanks so much to everyone who supported this thread! We couldn’t have done it without you.

Microsoft’s recent release of Git Virtual File System (GVFS), their open source plugin that allows Git to handle terabyte-sized repositories has not been without controversy. Since its initial unveiling, hundreds of developers (myself included) have expressed their concern with Microsoft’s naming decision on GitHub, social media, and various news sites. The source of this uproar is the fact that “GVFS” is effectively identical to GVfs, which is already the name of a well-established virtual file-system component run by GNOME.

This is already a bad look for Microsoft, as many open source veterans are quick to recall Redmond’s rather barbaric past in the early 2000s when Steve Ballmer and others at Microsoft declared open war against Linux and FOSS in general, promising to run Linux and its ilk into the ground. In recent years, though, the company has embraced Linux and FOSS, even contributing to a number of open source projects, and creating free, open source, cross-platform projects like Visual Studio Code, which is now beginning to rival GitHub’s Atom as the de facto universal coding IDE on Windows, Linux, and even OSX. That said, it seems not everyone at Microsoft has seen the light.

For the first year many maintained hope that Microsoft would make good on its promise to “look into” the issue and consider a less contentious, less already taken name. It appears, however, that this dream will never be realized. Earlier this year, Microsoft closed all issues on GitHub issues related to the name change (three separate users created issues), and closed the pull request where someone had painstakingly written scripts to change the name for the entire codebase to any name Microsoft elects.

On the bright side, @sanoursa did promise that GVFS will not be called GVFS when they release on Linux. We will see if they keep their promise. My guess is they have already forgotten they said this, so we will have to hold them to it when the time comes.

So what’s the takeaway from this? I guess it’s that Microsoft can still be pretty arrogant and still pretty entrenched in their old ways, even if they are embracing FOSS. For example, in developing GVFS they were surprised that Git has the odd behavior of requiring each release to support all previous repository formats (gasp!).

All in all, it will be very interesting (and for more than a few people, quite alarming) to see how all of this and more plays out as Microsoft continues talks to acquire GitHub. Maybe we all should be switching to GitLab or BitBucket after all? Hopefully not, but time will tell.

Sam Johnson

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CTO, BlockVue Inc.