When it was announced that Microsoft acquired GitHub for 7.5 Billion USD, open source communities became uneasy.
Some argue that Microsoft embraces open source communities, whilst others cite proprietary formats and business obligations as reasons why they never can. In the case of one of their offerings using open source code, some declare outright theft.
Bringing balance to the source
For those with their eye towards a decentralised future, where individuals are rewarded for their contributions to leaderless products, seeing GitHub run by a giant corporation is a step in the opposite direction. They jointly seek an alternative that has no centralised authority.
Git is decentralised
As a distributed version control systems, git lends itself readily towards decentralised distribution. Any computer that serves content on the internet can host a full git source code repository for anyone else connected, yet it is a manual process to co-ordinate with other computers to host copies of your repositories for redundancy.
Endeavours that make use of Swarm, IPFS, and Ethereum have been explored in the past, and interest is likely to grow, yet today there is not an off-the-shelf product ready for mass adoption (watch this space).
There is another
Whether it’s a matter of principle, or you simply don’t trust Microsoft with your private repos, here are a couple of options outside of GitHub:
With small hosting plans offered by many businesses, setting up a server with git does not take long. For the cost of 5–10AUD/month you can have your own server hosting your git repos.
Set up a git remote server with as many different hosting companies until you feel your source is sufficiently decentralised. Avail servers to other developers.
git remote add your_remote_name https://your_server.com/your/repo
git remote -v # list remotes (more than just origin on github.com)
BitBucket and GitLab
Atlassian’s offering of BitBucket has been known to me for some time, and it’s free private repository hosting is a distinguishing feature. GitLab as a free teir to get started on. Finally, Keybase (as introduced to me by The Officious BokkyPooBah) offers end-to-end encrypted git repos for the security conscious.
Sign up to these, and you can host your public/private repositories between smaller not-GitHub companies. This has the added benefit of everything else these companies offer to supplement a code repository outside of just hosting, such as Pages and Issue tracking. NB: this is not paid endorsement.
The founders who started GitHub and turned it into a product that the open source community love have been greatly rewarded (financially) for their efforts. The option to do an initial public offering (IPO) seemed to not be their desire for some time (2016).
If we liked GitHub and it’s freedom from a giant corporation how could users have made the sell harder? One way would have been to spend more on it. Company valuations are based on active users (data) and revenue, so spending more on the product would translate to increased revenue, and may have bumped the valuation out Microsoft’s interest. Perhaps even encouraged an IPO since many users were putting their money where their source was.
A decentralised ecosystem has individuals directly rewarded (via their computers) for the instantaneous service they provide, with no leaders or middle people. It might be some time until Swarm and IPFS are leveraged towards universal repository hosting, in the meantime remember to pay businesses for the services that you use, and if you can, help others who can’t afford to.