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GitHub lost $66M in nine months of 2016 (bloomberg.com)
540 points by mobee on Dec 15, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 568 comments

The thought of losing Github to the startup graveyard is kind of scary. It was bad enough to lose Google Code and when SourceForge had their "great purge" of inactive projects.

Or is it - to me Github is just another example of the developer tools market cycle. Reminds me a bit of the image hosting market - image hosting company is created and gains momentum, then has to monetize, so they add advertising and people start to drift away when someone else then creates the next image hosting site.

In the developer space, it seems pretty much the same. SourceForge was good/cool until it wasn't, so people moved to Github. Now, as Github perhaps gradually loses steam or coolness (might not happen either), another company will emerge (maybe it's Gitlab) who will take share while Github perhaps spins into irrelevance. Wash, rinse, repeat - but each time the software tends to get cheaper and cheaper, creating a massive deflationary environment as the particular developer tool set becomes commodity.

Or maybe AWS or Google step in with an actual good product (hasn't happened yet as far as I can tell in CI/CD but hey you never know), and they charge nothing for it because it's part of a basket of services. Margin for the standalone company goes to zero.

Developers have, as far as I can tell, almost zero brand loyalty - and that probably makes sense - but it's very tough in my opinion to create great products for developers and make money as a company at the same time.

But github has a monetization strategy, they're a paid service. This is more about their headcount expanding and possibly losing paying customers because they decided to get political.

Similar to Twitter. I do not understand why the hell they get political.

The mountain does not go to Mohammed, Mohammed goes to the mountain.

That is, politics is not something you can opt out of. Choosing to do or not do certain things impacts certain individuals and groups. The result is politics. It comes to you. If you operate any system by which humans can communicate, politics is inevitable.

While true, if you've heard of any of the happenings at GitHub, you know it's not that simple and that they have been aggressively political in the past.

Twitter is very politicised though.

The ban hammer is not wielded impartially.

twitter has been the birthplace of many emancipatory political movements. How was it ever not political? Furthermore, how are they wielding the ban hammer badly these days? Banning abusive assholes like Milo for example who make the site less fun for everyone else should happen more often, not less.

actually, their are some systems that try to force political forces out of the company. see holocracy.

At least with Twitter it's hopefully a wake up call for a lot of people about relying on centralized infrastructure.

Then again, Snapchat.

A blog that could be relevant http://hintjens.com/blog:111

(it's not about politics, it's about money)

I didn't follow when github started getting political. What happened?



TLDR: Some possibly transphobic person said something on the internet that got traced back to his github account. Some person not connected to the project complains and get's transphobic person removed from github. Github hires complainer to "improve diversity".

That and a couple of other things like their code of conduct have indicated that github wants to be the PC police more than a service provider. I want a dumb service provider.

I don't know if google has cleared out their "fake news" but the top hits on the subject are from heavily biased sources (geekfeminism.com and breitbart).

There was also the WebMConverter "retard" flap: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9966118

That was the thing that got me to delete my private repos and stop paying Github for its services - that day, they stopped being a neutral platform and became an opinionated service provider, and while I don't tend to do anything that would run afoul of their policies, I am exceptionally uncomfortable with the prospect of a platform provider exercising editorial control over others' code. I still use it for open source stuff, but I moved all my private stuff to Gitlab and have been exceptionally happy with the choice to do so.

Whoa. I didn't know about that either. I'm not going to comment on the content or arguments because, pretty much whatever one says, is going to result in a flamewar.

What I do find unsettling is the fallout, including GitHub's behaviour. I like GitHub as a product, and I use it all the time, but it seems at least moderately prudent to migrate repositories to Gitlab (or somewhere else) and keep them up to date, if only to have a backup other than my local copies if GitHub decided to close my account(1).

Looking at the wider context in the developer community, and across society, I am concerned by the number of people who want to immediately resort to the metaphorical thermonuclear option in the event of a disagreement. I mean this in terms of unyielding aggression, complete disengagement and exclusion.

I'm not specifically talking about gender issues either: Brexit and the US election are other prime examples. There's a complete lack of empathy from all sides in many online debates. It's starting to make me think psychopathy isn't so much a disorder as a spectrum on which we all sit.

On that cheerful thought, back to work...

(1) There's no reason they should that I'm aware of, but who knows what might happen in the future? Old chestnut about all eggs in one basket, etc.

> Old chestnut about all eggs in one basket, etc.

The other old chestnut is "first they came for the..."

Yeah, and in cases like this, well, that could go either way.

> psychopathy isn't so much a disorder as a spectrum on which we all sit

I think you're getting a bit off in terms of perspective here. There's a huge difference between [words on a page] and [Human being I'm talking to]. I might well say something that makes someone on the internet cry, I might laugh and post pubbietears.jpg if they said my comment had made them cry.

If I saw someone crying in close proximity it's likely I'd stop and ask if they were ok (albeit i would also feel very uncomfortable and undecided on said course of action in case it's imposition).

I'm being artificially extreme but it's certainly true that empathy in most people will be more pronounced for a physical person than an online username (who, lets face it, may or may not be representing their reality).

Oh, for sure, but I think it has an influence on our behaviour in the "real" world, and not a positive one. It's anecdotal, but several personal friends are friends with each other no longer in the wake of the Brexit vote. Actions in the virtual world have consequences in the physical world.

(And, sorry, my wry sense of humour doesn't necessarily work in plain text and I should make more effort to remember that. To me the spectrum idea is interesting, but it's just an idea.)

The Brexit vote isn't "the virtual world" though, so I'm a bit confused here.

But the angry angry facebook comment slapfights are in the virtual world and are doubtless partly to blame for a lot of sundered acquaintances.

I can think of a few comments by family members (aunts/uncles etc especially) on rants by 20 somethings on facebook about how the idiot olds were screwing us all over - being quite hurt by the positions taken in the rants.

Some of this is to do with the weirdness that is facebook crossing virtual/real world interactions. But most of the people who are still obsessed with spouting their personal views on [Global warming/Brexit/Trump/Syria/etc] will quickly find a partner to trade verbal blows with

^^^This. Thank-you!

See my original post above this where I specifically cite online debate, including about the Brexit vote. I perhaps could have been clearer in my second post, but that was a direct response to somebody who'd responded to my first post.

i wonder how Linus would have responded, and if linux were to be born today, considering's Linus' abrasive tongue, would survive.

some of these people have a point - their small minority though is pretty rabid and off point. i've never seen "RESPECT ME!" ever not backfire, on any scale and for any group.

it'll be interesting how we will resolve this kind of emergent social angst - before too much of our future falls victim to it.

there was a code of conduct that people working together adhered to back in the day, and as long as it was kept minimal and professional things are just fine - but it's always over applied, and it always contributes to the fall of its parent. PC and SJWs fall into that catigory these days. they should revise their tactic, i think it does them more harm and causes them to lose credibility, rather than gain any. they might win a few battles, but we'd all lose the war.

i belong to a majority that gets shit due to what a minority does - in my head, i think the way to change that is by serving as an example for the good - and fight the bad together with everyone willing.

the Opal folk should have just apologized, said they'll talk to their dev about his actions and closed the issue, then moved on. instead, that thread's curator u/meh just fanned the flames because of his own spartan approach to community health that overshadowed project health, and ended up causing more damage than it set out to avoid.

here's hoping github survives this.

  i've never seen "RESPECT ME!" ever not backfire, on any scale and for any group.
Perhaps you mean something different than what I'm understanding you to have said, but demanding respect seams like it was a key part of women's suffrage, the American civil rights movement, and the more recent push for marriage equality [1]. It is true that there are still plenty of people who do not respect those groups, but they currently receive vastly more respect than they would if they had not stood up for themselves.

[1] clearly not meant to be an exhaustive list

It's a powerful tactic that gains success under powerful circumstances.

When deployed during a minor skirmish, going nuclear often risks similarly nuclear retaliation.

I agree that I respect the suffragettes and even some of what FEMEN even does.

But what I meant is the "REAPECT ME" that leads to being "tolerated" rather than it being earned respect.

Should I take from this that what is being done today is likened to what suffragettes did back in the days of first wave feminism?

this makes me wonder how many of their hires actually add value rather than just consuming company resources

Thanks for the info and specific link. I definitely never heard of this.

You sometimes hear stuff about how github has all these internal problems now, since they got rid of their special rug or whatever, but is there any evidence of this spilling over into the projects they host?

As far as I can tell projects are still managing themselves as they and their leaders see fit. Seems fine to me.

The spectre of spooky SJWs haunting silicon valley shouldn't be the thing prompting people to consider redundancy in their source code management.

Do we know if Gitlab has a position on Opalgate? because if Github continues to be fully SJW-converged in a heavy handed and obnoxious way, that may be an obvious place for people to migrate to.

Wow, I didn't know the higher ups at GitHub were that unethical.

> I didn't follow when github started getting political. What happened?

They suddenly decided to be a PC/feminist stronghold, with the associated reverse-logic, claiming words like "meritocracy" were actually oppressing and not empowering, and what not.


After that stance was lost, you would every now and then read about just another piece about Github where PC politics were being inserted as Github policy.


It's been a gradual, but noticeable process.

You may or may not agree with the means/politics itself, but there should be no question that Github itself has been getting increasingly political recent years.

And when you do that, you are bound to alienate someone. I, like many others, would prefer Github to remain a dumb/neutral service-provider. That's what I use it for. I don't need it to throw a political platform in my face.

Hard to tell. I've heard some pretty bad things involving internal power disputes but externally it mostly looks like dealing with anti-PC trolls harshly, while hiring a few bigoteers. Nothing looks unreasonable in isolation but there is a clear left-leaning bias.

There was the bruhaha over banning someone from the whole site for using the triggering eggplant emoji: https://mobile.twitter.com/evilaubergine/status/679108445421...


They made a code-of-conduct. It pandered too strongly to the list-every-under-privileged-class attitude including explicitly rejecting the concept of "reverse discrimination" and so the reactionary folks who want to insist they aren't sexist and hate any moralizing or politics that challenge them etc. got up in arms. It was all a stupid side-show and had nothing to do with anything that matters to GitHub's basic services or business model. Most people never noticed either way.

The very suggestion that GitHub getting "political" supported by a single issue thread caused them to lose $66 million dollars is so laughable as to barely warrant confrontation.

Well they lost /our/ business over it. For us it was a clear signal we're better of just hosting our own damn repositories.

GitHub is a corporation. The Opal open source project is not. The maintainers in that thread who side against the "SJWs" still readily acknowledge that corporations have different obligations to political correctness than open source projects do. Lest we forget that even if you disagree with this, the maintainers also agree that somebody's personal beliefs are not relevant to whether their contributions are acceptable. So, why should it matter that they hired Coraline, exactly? Either they have an obligation to be politically correct as a VC-funded startup that needs to ensure its public face is immaculate, or Coraline is a fantastic Ruby developer who is good at building community management tools and her politics are irrelevant.

> the maintainers also agree that somebody's personal beliefs are not relevant to whether their contributions are acceptable. So, why should it matter that they hired Coraline, exactly?

I think you argued the wrong way. The maintainer states it's skill not political views that give merit. If github hired Coraline for her political views, then github stated it's political views not skills that give merit.

> Either they have an obligation to be politically correct as a VC-funded startup that needs to ensure its public face is immaculate

Immaculate? There's no black and white here.

> or Coraline is a fantastic Ruby developer who is good at building community management tools and her politics are irrelevant.

Yes but Coraline will never be satisfied with just being a fantastic ruby developer. It was pretty clear from her comments she cares more (or at least as much) about people than software.

I thought it was accepted wisdom at this point that software is people. Caring about people doesn't strike me as incompatible with caring about software --- indeed, for projects which demand collaboration between individuals (i.e. non-trivial complexity), I'd think it would be essential.

It's not a radical departure at all. It's right there in the Agile Manifesto, for chrissakes.

That's not what they meant in the Agile manifesto. They just meant they don't want to get bogged down by process instead of publishing something useful to users.

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools? That sounds pretty people-first to me.

I won't claim it's solely responsible, I don't even know if it's significant at all. But I did start moving projects over to gitlab and downgraded my account. The idea that you could lose your source code from wrongthought is worrying.

>The idea that you could lose your source code from wrongthought is worrying.

Who is saying this, exactly? The conclusion of that thread was the top maintainer on Opal siding with the originator. If you're worried about him removing you from his projects for your political opinions, don't work with him. This is the argument of the other side in that debate. That this thread happened on GitHub is largely irrelevant. If you're talking about hiring Coraline then you're exhibiting the same kind of intolerance for varying political opinions that people are chiding the "SJWs" for in that thread.

Bluntly: I simply don't understand why you think a controversial issue thread reflects at all on how GitHub will function as a product. It's like switching toaster brands because the toaster company hired a proponent of the Atkins diet.

Github does have a record of censoring speech it doesn't like (but which is not illegal). This includes removing github pages and kicking some obnoxious users off their platform while hiring other obnoxious users depending on the politics of those users.

The parent's point is not that they want a source code platform to agree with them in all political issues. They simply don't want a platform that kicks people off for political reasons. I agree with this. Perhaps an analogy will help you understand:

I don't know or care what the political leanings of my local water and utilities companies are. But I will never willingly be a customer of a water company that occasionally shuts off the tap based on a few tweets they disagree with.

Dis you miss the part where they hired the professional victim to help spread her politics?

Where is she spreading her politics through GitHub?

With more bullshit like the diversity hiring spree theyre going on. But the internal politics doesn't worry me as much of the fact that they hired a professional bully that can influence who is allowed to use GitHub.

So you disagree with their internal politics? So what? As meh said in the Opal thread, you can absolutely use a tool made by people whose politics you disagree with.

Why are you assuming that GitHub will discriminate against you for your politics? I fully support your choice and in fact I think it's justified, but if you really didn't care about politics, you would keep using GitHub until they kick you off of it for thoughtcrime, as @meh would have the "SJWs" doing in that thread. It honestly just seems that you want a platform whose politics you agree with, and don't want to use a platform whose politics you disagree with.

That is totally fine and valid and is a thing everyone has the right to do. Nonetheless, it's still a politics. Politics is unavoidable, it is a consequence of being able to think and disagree. You can dislike the internal politics, but to do so you have to hold contradictory views yourself. That is the essence of disagreement, and cloaking it in anti-politics does nothing to change that.

> but if you really didn't care about politics, you would keep using GitHub until they kick you off of it for thoughtcrime

I do care about politics, but it is irrelevant to my projects. The time to care about losing access to your source code is before you lose access to it (like backups). Github has shown that there is a signifact risk to hosting my code there so I'm moving off it.

> It honestly just seems that you want a platform whose politics you agree with, and don't want to use a platform whose politics you disagree with.

No, it want a platform that doesn't get involved with politics. Just like I don't care about the politics of any other service I use, as long as it doesn't interfere with my using it.

> Nonetheless, it's still a politics. Politics is unavoidable, it is a consequence of being able to think and disagree.

So you'd be happy to shop somewhere that doesn't allow gay people?

>Just like I don't care about the politics of any other service I use, as long as it doesn't interfere with my using it.

So I'll ask again. How, concretely, do Coraline's politics interfere with your current usage of GitHub?

They don't interfere with my current usage. I'm concerned it will interfere with my future usage and I'm taking steps to ensure that doesn't happen.

>I'm concerned it will interfere with my future usage and I'm taking steps to ensure that doesn't happen.

And how do you know Coraline wasn't interacting in the same vein?

On the other hand do you have any insight they are not losing a large sum of this money because paying customers are leaving for platforms that are not politicised?


    Something may be causing something.
Counter Argument:

    There's no proof of that.
Counter Counter Argument:

    Ah, but is there any evidence that 'Something' is *not* causing it.
No, you see, that's not how logic works. You provide evidence for something; not the absence of evidence for it not happening.

There's even a name for it. It's called: argumentum ad ignorantiam (guess what that translates as), also known as an appeal to ignorance.


Any platform can and will be "politicized." Mediums that allow unbridled communication between humans are always political to a varying degree. "Politics" is really just a word for structured disagreement, it happens and is happening everywhere.

And just to be clear, "prove they're not leaving" is not a great argument. I mean I guess they might be? But $66m dollars is a lot of money. They'd have to lose over a million paying customers to lose that much from people switching away. This is a simple calculation that returns a boolean, there are either a significant number of paying customers leaving such that it impacts on the scale of millions of dollars (and we're talking about a product that is $7/month for individuals here, that's a lot of $7 subs) or there aren't.

What do you think the ballpark is for paying customers irritated enough by that thread's existence that they leave the service altogether? I honestly don't know, I wouldn't know where to begin quantifying.

but on the other hand they got rid of their meritocracy rug and removed it from their companies list of values over politics.

so there might be something to it honestly.

Yes, I read the thread thrice still didn't understand how that makes github political, especially when the company makes $ on enterprise customers. Is the opal project managed by Github?

yup. I hope it was clear in my wording that your reply is just the conclusion you should have.

Definitely. I was shocked to see you were the only person rejecting the consensus on this and thus felt inclined to agree.

Damnit. I was hoping to cut this off before it continued, but apparently the whiners about this got up-voted to being the highest answers here. The person asking what happened didn't need to know any of this, they just needed to know that there was some inconsequential brouhaha they could ignore.

Apparently the cliche is right: a large portion of programmers are sorta insular and socially awkward white guys who embrace the concept of "nerd" as a positive and so are a bit defensive and feel threatened about other views and groups and people invading their social space. They may have legitimate concerns here or in similar cases, but the level of energy about it is so clearly defensive and of a magnitude that's wholly unwarrented.

It's not the nerd that's the problem per se, it's the reflexive rejection of other people's lived experience and the rush to label marginalized people asking not to be marginalized further as bullying that appalls me. You can disagree with the politics but when it comes to name calling the discussion is long over.

Indeed "nerd" isn't the problem, it's just that nerd-pride type of idea comes from two aspects: (A) that there's a history of being marginalized such that people in these circles can feel defensive and (B) there's a definite white-guy cultural thing all tied into the "nerd" identity such that people who identify that way aren't comfortable with the idea that tech could be potentially dominated by the sorts of people who are culturally ill-fit to that identity. The identity politics isn't nonsense.

There's just more going on with the sort of people who would get that up in arms over this stuff than just the surface issues themselves.

> Most people never noticed either way.

Noticed, didn't give a shit.

Frankly it was a complete over reaction based on virtue signalling, band wagoning and the general mesd that is any kind of nuanced debate online.

When I run into that stuff now I just close the tab, life is literally too short for it.

This is always the way though. Things like being fired for political opinions or detained without trial are always stuff that probably won't affect you as long as you keep your head down and act as a good citizen, and the people who got in trouble were probably pretty bad people. There's some line about how anyone who cares about freedom has to spend their life defending scoundrels.


A few people making a lot of noise.

Any suggestion this had a material impact on githubs business is pure speculation.

SourceForge and GitHub feel different. SourceForge was always _really_ spammy from day one, GitHub has a far superior product.

It seems logical that GitHub will eventually figure out how to make money, even if it is just by following the tried and trusted "project management system" model

SourceForge wasn't spammy from day one. I remember it back in the first year or so of its existence. It was actually really good, and an absolute revolution for the open source community as no such sites had existed prior to that. It immediately gained massive traction and was every bit as central to the open source/free software community as github is today.

I used it from 2000ish until around the time that apt-get became good. I can't ever remember a time when sourceforge didnt make me try to click on ads when attempting to download software.

It was certainly a valuable tool and definitely the GitHub of its time, but man- soooo spammy.

SourceForge has a new owner trying hard to bring it back to life.

> trying hard to bring it back

Any source or info on this?

> Developers have, as far as I can tell, almost zero brand loyalty

I feel like part of this stems from the fact that every service now wants to charge a monthly fee instead of offering a one time purchase.

If you want me to pay $X/mo, that fee has to correlate to the value you are providing me each month. The minute that equation changes, people start to consider other options.

One of the benefits to SaaS is that you can make more money and your revenue is more predictable, but on the other hand it means your market is more susceptible to competition because companies are comparing their options more frequently.

> when someone else then creates the next image hosting site.

If I am not mistaken Imgur is doing quite well for many years now.

How is Imgur making money ?

Ads, they are making good money from the ads that they removed paid plans and gave all the features to everyone.

Keep in mind that also have a superior product to just about every image host that came before them (other than Flickr), they are the de-facto favored image host for Reddit, and to top it off have their own social networking features with non-trivial market adoption.

With that many eyeballs on your site it's no surprise that even their subtle advertising style [1] is profitable. I'd personally much rather see sponsored posts everywhere than pandering direct marketing and spying/tracking.

[1]: http://www.imgurads.com/

> they are the de-facto favored image host for Reddit

Not any more - https://techcrunch.com/2016/05/25/reddit-image-uploads/

> Not any more

Actually that is still the case. He said "de facto" not "official". Imgur still represents the majority of image links on most subreddits.


r/all shows more imgur links than i.reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/all/

Your article dates from half a year ago and they still couldn't snuff imgur out with built-in upload facilities, suffice to say, as far as the users are concerned, imgur is the defacto beloved service. People on twitter are more likely to use twitter's img upload than redditors are to use their own.

slowly being replaced with sli.mg, the way that reddit is slowly being replaced with voat.co.

So it's not?

I have been hearing that about voat.co for couple of years.

took reddit a while to replace digg as well. a few years, in fact.

People moved from digg to reddit in mass becase digg screwed up big time, as long as Reddit does not make any big screw ups, its pretty safe.

seems the spez /r/the_donald controversy has tripled voat's user base.

GitHub is a $100M ARR revenue company that is probably (2 VC rounds where they had a lot of leverage) still controlled by the founders. They are in a healthy state right now, regardless of the high burn compared to most VC-backed companies.

They certainly made a lot of mistakes, had changes in the leadership team and are successful despite that not because of it, but I don't see them dying anytime soon.

$60M burn over 9 months after raising $250M isn't horrible either. If they continue to grow which seems to be the case, they will be break-even long before they run out of money.

The numbers aren't surprising to me; I'm more surprised why Bloomberg makes such a big deal out of it. GitHub's bigger problem is certainly that they stopped improving, had internal team issues, etc. but that's only a small part of the article (vs. a big focus on those numbers).

> If they continue to grow which seems to be the case, they will be break-even long before they run out of money

What are you basing that on?

The article says that in 2015 they had revenue of $95 million and lost $27 million.

For the first 3 quarters of 2016 the article says they “surpassed last year’s revenue […] with $98 million”, but also that they lost $66 million in that same period.

So while revenue doubled, the loss more than doubled, which does not look like they are on the path to break even.

Of course there are many unknowns, but going by the numbers in the article alone, it does not look like a slam dunk.

It's a bit tricky because the Bloomberg article states different numbers. It's unclear what they mean with revenue (ARR? Recognized Revenue?).

But, let's take some of those numbers: $25M in Sep'14 (subscription revenue annualized => ARR), $95M in Sep'16 ("revenue" - let's assume it's ARR; recognized revenue would be even better) - that's very impressive growth.

If that continues slowly, let's say they went from $25M to $70M, then growth slowed and they grew to $95M and can get to $120M by the end of next year and grow from there - that's a lot of additional revenue to offset the burn.

Burning $88M per year ($66M in 9 months) after getting $250M from investors + probably a large credit line - even if they don't grow at all, don't reduce cost, that's cash for 3 years.

If they reduce their costs (let's say by $15M), make $25M more in revenue, then it's a $40M lower burn ($48M), and they would still have plenty of the $250M in the bank (+ credit line + what they had before they raised the round).

I'm not saying it's easy or that they are doing phenomenally well. I'm just saying that they can get it under control relatively easily compared to other companies that have high burn rates.

As an anecdote, I was called into a meeting with the CTO of a fairly large European bank, and a sales guy from GitHub a couple of month ago.

I got the feeling that they are selling rather aggressively right now.

> I'm more surprised why Bloomberg makes such a big deal out of it.

They're probably sounding alarmist to try maximising attention. :/

Could be or they probably don't know the details of GitHub's business, product, etc. If you aren't an engineer, writing for Bloomberg and getting the financials of a hyped startup like GitHub, that article is the outcome in most of the cases. Imagine them writing about Docker - I doubt it would be different.

Which is a bummer. I wish there would be somebody more closely analyzing the industry. There's so much going on and I believe that surfacing more of that to the broader community would be beneficial for all of us and result in stronger companies. I think nobody wants to see GitHub going out of Business. We need health competition (as consumers of their products). That GitLab forced pressure on them to improve the product is awesome. I wish Bloomberg would have put more focus on the cultural/leadership issues because a more diverse/inclusive GitHub, again, is better for all of us.

> If you aren't an engineer, writing for Bloomberg and getting the financials of a hyped startup like GitHub, that article is the outcome in most of the cases. Imagine them writing about Docker - I doubt it would be different.

And it shouldn't be different. If the financials are not well, then the financials are not well. Docker, like github, DOES NOT have their future "locked up" 100%. There are a lot of reasons why both could ultimately fail and burning piles of cash seems pretty darn relevant despite the echo chamber that is Silicon Valley.

I think the financials aren't the actual problem & aren't as bad as the article frames them to be. Look at other SaaS companies at a large scale (eg. New Relic) - they also had huge losses after raising larger rounds. I'm not saying that burning such a huge amount is necessarily a good thing. I'm just trying to put it into perspective.

For me, it's especially not surprising because GitHub needed to heavily invest into GitHub Enterprise, start doing Sales, etc. to keep growing at the rate they wanted and they probably made a lot of mistakes when they started Sales. It's hard, and especially if you put Sales into a very developer-driven culture (=> takes you longer to figure it out => more mistakes => costs you more money). That all being said, some things they did are certainly a sign of being a bit too confident (office, etc.).

But, that's all not their biggest threat. You can get the burn easily under control and reduce cost especially if they are primarily in Marketing/Sales. The bigger issue is a decrease in product quality, a (perceived) slower pace for innovating/improving than their competitors (GitLab) and all the internal culture/team struggles. Having changes in your key positions, 2 out of 4 founders leaving, CEO change, etc. - that's all far more dangerous. A good leadership team can control the burn and reduce it if necessary. A good leadership team sets the right culture.

    git remote add neworigin ...

Studies have unfortunately shown that negative news gets more eyeballs. When's the last time you saw positive uplifting news on say, CNN?

"I'm more surprised why Bloomberg makes such a big deal out of it."

this is a pretty bad hit piece from Bloomberg, they should be ashamed

Github was founded in 2008. I think it's fairly reasonable to expect that an 8 years old company shows some kind of path to profitability, especially when you consider the popularity of the plarform an the amount of VC money it attracted. When you're near peak popularity and competition is heating up, being profitable or at least being cash flow positive is a good thing.

If they can't stand on their own feet, I imagine somebody would/will buy GitHub at a firesale rather than see it disappear completely. For all their missteps, they have developer mindshare that is the envy of everyone. If we're lucky it would be someone like Google or Microsoft, if we're unlucky it might be Oracle or SalesForce. Whoever it would end up being though, GitHub won't just vanish.

Ignoring the fact that the VCs want to get paid and GitHub's employees want to keep working, how big of a skeleton crew would it take to keep a site like GitHub running in "maintenance" mode?

Ask Craigslist, or soon Twitter?

Post VC investment, GitHub would never be allowed to exist in maintenance mode. It would be liquidated in one form or another if things were that dire. Once they took the venture capital, the possible outcomes narrowed considerably.

They could go non-profit like the Mozilla foundation.

But not if the owners (investors) want their money back instead.

Can you really put something in "maintenance" mode without killing it?

Maintaining the app and not moving forward with new features and adding value (because of lack of resources), I would assume it would just die eventually.

I don't understand this obsession with the first derivative of value. GitHub already provides loads of value. I understand they need resources to keep the lights on, but they could do that by recouping a tiny fee from their users and most everyone would be happy.

They're not without alternatives already though. In a changing environment to stay still is to fall behind.

And to move is to risk a quick death. I wished existing brands stopped innovating so much. That's e.g. what got Pebble killed.

Doubly so when a brand reaches infrastructure level - like Github, or arguably Dropbox. Just don't screw with the product that's working well. Not breaking things isn't expensive.

That's not as big an issue when there are network effects -- look at Craigslist. Plus, what killer feature is bitbucket going to add at this point to make everyone want to switch? They're practically the same product. All the major innovation happened years ago.

Clickable code view would be nice, e.g:


Thanks for the idea. This would be awesome indeed. I've created an issue on GitLab for this: https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitlab-ce/issues/25762

This would be wonderful.

don't they already attempt to do that though? i don't consider $7/month a large fee. (granted, they could probably get more subscribers at $3-5, but i'm assuming they landed on $7 for a reason)

They make vast more quantities off of actual businesses. The $7 repo fee is literally a soft wind on the face of Everest.

I really hate this, because this is what bloats and kills products. It's never complete, it always needs more features, until it implodes.

It's the corpse model of product development.

...it's a source control company. What additional features could I possibly want? They serve their purpose just fine.

I appreciate how GitHub's software platform makes migration elsewhere much easier, making me less leveraged by GitHub the company.

That, ironically, makes me REALLY not want them to go under: they don't deserve to.

Isn't the migration easier because it's just a git repo? I'm curious how GitHub's software platform specifically facilitates easy migration.

The git repo itself is trivial to migrate (you already have a full copy, just push it somewhere else).

The problems are issues, code comments, pull request discussions, etc, which may be harder, and their API helps here.

Truth be told, an API is an easy way to get app developers to include support for your platform; you aren't going to save yourself from the reality of web scrapers in any case.

The API certainly helps. Our GitLab can import all the things you mention. https://docs.gitlab.com/ce/workflow/importing/import_project...

The comprehensive API helps, though that can theoretically be limited if a ton of people try to migrate.

Or we could actually luck out, and settle on GitLab or similar.

Not that I hold out too much hope here, but given GitLab's emphasis on the enterprise and self-hosting, it would be amazing if they could put some effort into making disparate GitLab installations behave like one big network (think Six Apart with trackbacks/typekey/etc way back in the day).

Github's huge win is the network effect of having one account and being able to interact on thousands of issue trackers, create PRs, etc. It would super cool if GitLab could achieve some of that same experience without requiring everyone to all be on gitlab.com. It would go a long way toward addressing the criticisms that Github is too centralized.

> Not that I hold out too much hope here, but given GitLab's emphasis on the enterprise and self-hosting, it would be amazing if they could put some effort into making disparate GitLab installations behave like one big network (think Six Apart with trackbacks/typekey/etc way back in the day).

Yeah, I think it'd be awesome if there was some form of optional federation between GitLab instances (sort of like Matrix or NextCloud).

See my comment below, we'd love this and look forward to everyone's ideas on this [0]

[0]: https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitlab-ce/issues/4013

IIRC Gogs/Gitea and GitLab have plans to enable pull request federation, so you could use your own instance to make pull requests on a completely different one.

I also recommend to check out Gitea (community fork of Gogs) if you haven't yet, it's a nice alternative to Gitlab for selfhosting.

Federated merge requests (pull requests) is something we've been wanting to do for a long time [0]. Maybe 2017 is the year to do it.

[0]: https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitlab-ce/issues/4013

I'm not sure Google or Microsoft offer hope. The former seem like it would soon shutter it as not returning added value to shareholders and the latter like they'd subtly degrade access from non MS platforms until people wished Google had bought it and shut it down.

It seems like other smaller companies have exploited the profitable parts of Github's niche out from under them.

I think I here a bell tolling.

> the latter like they'd subtly degrade access from non MS platforms until people wished Google had bought it and shut it down.

Maybe I'm too nice to them, but that doesn't seem like Microsoft's modus operandi anymore. These days they're all about getting people to buy more CPU cycles from Azure, rather than trying to seriously pursue Windows platform lock-in (which is a lost cause and they know it).

I imagine if Microsoft did buy GitHub, they'd have all kinds of offers like "get automated tests and CI to your Azure machines every time you push", or allowing you to host the repo on your own Azure VMs but still use the GitHub interface, stuff like that. They'd probably keep the free GitHub mostly as it is, with some nagging to upsell premium Azure stuff but nothing worse than that.

As for Google, I agree that they tend to get easily distracted and drop things, but I would hope that GitHub is popular enough (both inside and outside Google) that there would be serious pressure not to let it die on the vine. Contrast with abandonware like Wave and Google+ which never got enough mindshare that anyone felt like really fighting for it.

People _relied_ on Google Code

I figured MSFT was going to buy them and have it integrate nicely with Azure. They could do hosted enterprise github's natively on azure and would outclass code commit on AWS. Instead they bought linkedin which doesn't make sense to me.

Microsoft already has Visual Studio Team Services, which is its Git-compatible source code and work-item-tracking system. Like GitLab, VSTS is focusing on enterprise sales first (though there is a free-tier that you can play with). Why would Microsoft want to buy Github and try to refocus it when it already has a product that caters to its enterprise clientele?

Because developers like GitHub?

What missteps?

Supposedly competitors may be cheaper or offer more in the free tier, and I could imagine you'd call Git itself a 'misstep', but otherwise I can only think of incredible cultural and technical achievements by GitHub?

I love GitHub (product + company), however over the past few years there's been a lot of very public internal issues.

That being said, the product itself is stellar.

The political issues inside the company are a lot more troubling than anything involving the product, I agree.

I agree somebody will buy them before they disappear, but I strongly disagree on the purchasers.

I'll take Oracle, SalesForce, or Microsoft over Google any day of the week. The worst Oracle will do is start charging me more, but god only knows what kind of sleazy ad tracking Google will add. No thank you, I'll move everything over to BitBucket.

Fortunately, I don't think Google will bother. They already shutdown Google Code when they couldn't use it to increase ad revenue, so hopefully they'll leave GitHub alone.

The options you named all use google analytics

They even let you add your own analytics key

SalesForce bought heroku and heroku seems to be doing well.

We'll just move the code to gitlab. Git allow us to do it almost painlessly (well, with a missing issue backlog). It's not a big deal.

99% of the value of github is the user interface, not the mere fact that it's a hosted git repository.

I believe gitlab's UI has gotten better lastly. Nevertheless, if 99% of the value provided by github comes from their interface, should we remember how much time they needed to implement the "+1" counters on messages?

Their UI/UX is still nowhere comparable to GitHub's. GitHub is so much simpler to use that GitLab and everyone I talk to seems to have the same opinion. GitLab is still lagging far behind when it comes to user experience, it's just not easy to find stuff.

Is it really necessary though? I've been using bitbucket at work, and their UI is the worst. I mean, you can't even close a PR after a rebase. Yes, it's seriously this _BAD_. So, we're just using cli tools and gui clients, and it works fine.

I understand that people would be annoyed by a forced switch, github has a working issue tracker, wiki, and not to mention the awesome github pages. But, I just think loosing them is not that dramatic.

Well, I find both Bitbucket and Gitlab to be superior to GitHub in the UI department. I haven't even been able to find a graphical tree log of branches and commits on GitHub. ("network" on Gitlab, "commits" on Bitbucket). They also both offer unlimited private repositories (albeit bitbucket has a limit on the number of users granted access, but very cheap pricing if you need to bump the user limit.). GitHub only recently introduced unlimited private repositories on their pricing plans. For years GitHub priced themselves out of our reach (with 300+ private repositories, they didn't even offer this as an option beyond "call us")

GitHub has a "network" tab under "Graphs" that might provide what you're looking for.

But when people say that GitHub has better UI, they're more talking about the clean menus and intuitive UI. Some of it might just be getting used to one design over another. Although, BitBucket to me has always felt too cluttered.

You can't really compare Github to Gitlab, when the former has a fifth the features of the latter.

Wait did you write that correctly - GitHub has less functionality/features than GitLab?

Yeah, much less. As the sibling says, GitLab has integrated CI/CD, extensive code review functionality (which GitHub just added), more fine-grained rules about who can merge what where, an integrated Docker hub, etc.

For example GitLab comes with complete CI and CD functionality https://about.gitlab.com/gitlab-ci/

I had the same issue with finding the tree log, it's under graphs and called network.


That one looks more like an overview of forks between account. Which is nice for open source projects probably, but isn't very helpful or informative for single-repo-multiple-branches. For example, no commit messages are shown by default.

With their latest revamp? No way. UX-wise it's very similar to GitHub. You're probably talking of experiences in an older iteration or it's just users that were used to GitHub and didn't feel like learning something that looks slightly different.

We're using the latest build at work. I have really like Gitlab's merge request system. Their experience is pretty straight forward and they fixed a lot of the scalability issues with the built-in wiki.

The opening/home page of Github is still better though. What really got people into Gitlab was the self hosting. Github has depended on selling their enterprise version. I was at a talk where Wanstrath said something to the effects of their expensive enterprise version that only people with money to spend need. .. (Years after I left my job at a state university ... they bought a license. -_- I hated how they paid for a lot of stuff they didn't need).

Even though Gitlab may lack in some UI elements, it's more than good enough and it doesn't hinder work. I'm at a shop that still uses the community edition too.

Gitlab and Bitbucket really cut into Github's model. There are more clones out there now too. If you really want a self-hosted Github like UI, there's Gogs too.

We're working hard on making the UI and UX of GitLab better. A good start is this meta-issue [0], but there are many others. We realise we have some ways to go, but this is a major priority for us and 2017 will bring improvements every single month.

[0]: https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitlab-ce/issues/24304

Thanks for the feedback! At GitLab, we know that it can be challenging to find things, and it is something that we are working on improving. For example, we are improving our issue search, giving you much more powerful search capabilities (https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitlab-ce/issues/21747). However, I know there is more we can do. Please let us know, create an issue (https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitlab-ce/issues/new), or comment on this issue (https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitlab-ce/issues/25752) if you have specific examples of problems or ideas on how we can improve making it easy to find things, or simplify our overall experience.

If you need something simple and similar to Github, checkout Gogs/Gitea (Gitea is the community fork which I recommend to use)

Agreed. Gitlab's interface is better. Especially the issue board. Throw in their fully-integrated CI platform and container registry basically makes Gitlab a winner.

I'm using both Gitlab and Github for different projects, and I just can't stand Gitlab's interface. Informations are scattered all around the place and there's no distinctive way of finding the information you want. Plus it's slow as hell.

Github's UI makes sense. I can find anything in the blink of an eye and it's blazing fast. The team I'm currently working with is completely fed up with Gitlab.

I agree. I couldn't stand the slowness of Gitlab's UI. I originally came to Gitlab because Bitbucket was lagging on several features that I wanted, and had a poor UI. Gitlab's UI seemed more inviting as it was similar to Github. Mostly though, I chose Gitlab for the free private repositories.

The Gitlab UI is /fine/, but the speed is what gets me. On github, even if I have thousands of commits, the UI is instantaneous. If I click on something, the load time is less than a second for me. So I switched to Github and paid for the private repositories. I absolutely didn't mind paying for this since Github is so fast for me and seems to be adding pretty cool new features (code review enhancements on PR, for example).

I still have one of my repositories on GitLab and it's still slow when I do things like browse commits, view source files, etc.

It's not just Gitlab though. Bitbucket is pretty slow for me as well, though not as slow as Gitlab. I would guess that Github's caching algorithms are much better than either of those two to really make pages seem snappy.

yeah, gitlab _is_ slow. Given that they are (unlike github) actually making money I don't understand why they wont just throw more servers at the problem (or put some devs on fixing their backend).

> I don't understand why they wont just throw more servers at the problem

There's only so much you can solve by throwing more hardware/money at the problem. We have reached a point where we are wasting too much of this, so adding more won't help much.

> (or put some devs on fixing their backend)

We have plenty of people working on the problem, and for quite a while now. We're also hiring more developers to help us out with this:




There's also this old (and closed) issue which contains a lot of information: https://gitlab.com/gitlab-com/operations/issues/42

Are you using GitLab.com or hosting it yourself? We're working on improving GitLab.com, but self-hosting GitLab should be pretty fast in most circumstances.

As for the interface, we're working on improving the design of the product and have just hired a UX Researcher to help with that. Would be happy to hear any specifics you have to offer.

I can't speak for other browsers, but keeping a GitLab tab open in a background tab consistently causes my CPU dedicate 15-25% of its cycles to Firefox.

I do file bugs against GitLab every now and then, but I haven't done so for this one because I assume that there's an existing item on file for this (and I don't care to look for it) and that this is all part of the the longstanding, "Yeah, we really need to work on our frontend story, especially for mobile."

The end result is that just don't keep GitLab tabs open. Which is a little obnoxious, given the well-known issues with how slow GitLab is to complete requests.

Mmm, I found https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitlab-ce/issues/521 but that was a Firefox bug. It is probably something in GitLab but I'm not sure someone filed a bug report for it. We have complete UX and frontend teams and at this moment all the views should work great, also on mobile. GitLab self-hosted should be fast but we're working on the speed of GitLab.com.

Here's another issue about Firefox using 100% CPU https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitlab-ce/issues/342

Searching an issue number in the list page's text input should take me to the issue. Sounds small but it's a frequent irritation; I will be 200% happier with Gitlab once it's solved, and my teammates even more so.

Hi throwanem. This is an excellent idea. I've created an issue about it in GitLab's issue tracker so we can move forward with it: https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitlab-ce/issues/25771


If you have Alfred, you can set up a custom web search since issue numbers are in the URL. I have tons of these set up to get to different repos, my global list of PRs, etc. It's that much faster because you don't even need to open a browser or navigate to the page to type in a search field.

Interesting idea, but it doesn't really fit my use case, because I always have a tab open on the issues list page for each project on which I'm working at a given time. When I want to open tabs for issues of present interest, as when reviewing for deployment or preparing a changelog update, it'll be a lot more convenient to do so by searching issue numbers and middle-clicking their entries in the result, rather than the current method of copying a URL to an issue page, then doing C-TAB C-l C-v <end> <backspace> <backspace> <backspace> <backspace> 1 2 3 RET with as many issue numbers as I have in hand to deal with.

We would love to learn what we can do to continue to improve the GitLab experience. Is there a specific type of information you are having a hard time finding? Or is it about the overall information hierarchy? Feel free to make an issue if that is easier (https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitlab-ce/issues/new) or comment on this issue we are using to learn from this thread (https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitlab-ce/issues/25752). Thanks for the feedback!

You can really improve the GitHub issue board experience with tools like ZenHub [1] - which is further ahead than the GitLab project management experience. This extra functionality is really needed in order to get the PM's buy in to switch from Jira.

The GitHub ecosystem will be the biggest hurdle for GitLab to overcome. (Disclosure - I work at ZenHub)

[1] https://www.zenhub.com/

99% of the value of github is the community.

99% of the value of Github is that nobody wants to bother using anything else

> nobody

citation needed



(Just found this thread; sorry for the late reply!)

if we postulate that moving all of bevry's projects to gitlab creates a snowball of other projects and communities doing the same I disagree. When a field is as dominated by one player as OSS development is dominated by GitHub, it is extremely hard to break that hold.

For example: Facebook dominates social media. Within Facebook, there are several organizations, many of which are reasonably sized, and which do good work. Now…suppose one of those organizations left Facebook for a more benevolent social network. Or even two or three of them. Do you really believe this would create a “snowball effect”, resulting in a mass exodus from Facebook to the more-benevolent social network?

Of course not. Everybody knows that Facebook is quite possibly the sleaziest, least trustworthy company on the Web. (If you disagree, I’d feel confident that you’d concede that it is in the top five such companies, at the very least.) And, in fact, people have tried to create trustworthy, privacy-respecting alternatives to Facebook (like Diaspora, Friendica, and Tent).

Diaspora launched in 2010. Although its decentralized nature makes it harder to get concrete numbers for its user base, the best I could find puts the number around 380K. After four years.


Why? Well, it’s not because people prefer to have their privacy invaded, and it’s not because people like one central company to amass dangerous amounts of personal information to sell to advertisers (and god knows who else!). It’s because people are on Facebook. It has all the social capital, and—from the standpoint of where people choose to put their time in—that is more important than ideology, decentralization, technological advantage, and privacy.

I dislike this intensely, but it’s true.

For a while, people were pretty angry at Twitter (even though it is a more ethical company than Facebook, by orders of magnitude). So, some people tried to get a “snowball effect” rolling for their alternative, Identica.

At 1.5 million users, it’s been a more successful “benevolent alternative” to Twitter than Diaspora was to Facebook. But that’s still less than 1% of Twitters 241 million users (source).

GitLab may have more merit going for it than GitHub, but that’s not enough. Moving everything to GitLab will:

Cost a lot of time and effort to migrate the codebase Cost a lot of time and effort for existing developers to readjust their workflows and learn the differences of GitLab Most important of all, it will reduce the visibility of every last project to a small percentage of the current size. And don’t think that linking to the new location will help. The alternative social networking sites I mentioned above had massive campaigns, many of which were prominently featured in tech magazines and blogs with millions of viewers. Linking from a popular old location to an unpopular new location does not work like forwarding e-mail; traffic won’t simply follow the link and continue the same behavior at GitLib like nothing’s changed. Perhaps a few individuals might…but you’ll still lose far, far more contributors in the end.

And what happens to open source projects that cease to be developed? They die. And the communities that once breathed life into them die, as well.

I cannot protest this idea strongly enough. If you move to GitLab, perhaps you can keep the company’s core developers active enough to keep the projects alive. Perhaps you might even find some short-term success in convincing a few contributors to keep working on your projects.

And if you move to GitLab…I really, really hope that they do. But I think that moving to GitLab will do as much good for your repositories as moving them to a private server for bevry employees only. Slightly better than that, perhaps…but not by much.

I would love to be proven wrong about what I’ve written here. But I don’t think that I am.

Please: reconsider this. Not just for the company, and not just for the good of your software, but for your extended community.

I believe that what is good for your extended community is also good for your software, and your company, too.

Please reconsider.

Clearly there are network effects in open source SaaS hosting. That is why at GitLab we're focussing on other parts of the market first. See https://about.gitlab.com/strategy/#sequence

We appreciate open source projects moving to GitLab.com and we're seeing more and more of that. But it does reduce the visibility of the project so people should take your warning into account. Our focus right now is making GitLab.com more performant for the people that do use it.

"Cost a lot of time and effort to migrate the codebase" => hopefully we solved that, see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13189475 that says "GitLab has a migration feature that "just works". Was painless here"

In the same thread, there are some great responses to that comment.

Also, it seems some people are really scared of changes and would do anything to keep the status quo.

Except that value is non-existent at the enterprise level. Substandard at most everything it does. It's the most expensive code viewing tool there is. They really need to turn their Enterprise offering around, because I don't see any value in it other than saying "we pay for GitHub enterprise."

Are there any native UIs that are as good or better than the github UI?

We are thoroughly conditioned to use centralized services, aren't we? git is a dvcs for heavens sake.

GitLab has a migration feature that "just works". Was painless here

what does it include? issues, wiki, comments?

the repository description (GitLab 7.7+)

the Git repository data (GitLab 7.7+)

the issues (GitLab 7.7+)

the pull requests (GitLab 8.4+)

the wiki pages (GitLab 8.4+)

the milestones (GitLab 8.7+)

the labels (GitLab 8.7+)

the release note descriptions (GitLab 8.12+)

the references to pull requests and issues are preserved (GitLab 8.7+)


GitLab's self-hosted requirements are too high for my small needs so I use gogs.io.

It's a git web interface written in Go and is much more friendly on a VPS with small amounts of memory.

Gitlab is slower then Github

Keep in mind that the whole point of Gitlab/gogs is to self-host it.

In my experience, both are lightning fast compared to GitHub over the internet.

Fortunately, GitHub Archive exists in the event things go south. https://www.githubarchive.org

I was just trying to collect all issues raised on github, unfortunately anything before 2015 (the now deprecated timeline API) is not very useful.

Maybe, just maybe, someday we'll have a decentralized web with a web-of-trust identity framework, and people can host their own email, code repository, and even website!

P.S. to put a bit more effort into my post: I really do wonder if the discoverability problem of a decentralized web can be better solved for things like social networks, code sharing, etc.

Startup idea for someone: A search engine that only indexes decentralized, self-hosted stuff. No Github, FB, etc. Hell, go ahead and delist all sites using Google Analytics.

You can host your own "GitHub". It's called "GitLab". For my use, it's just as good.

The only downside is that for a toy project, you have to spend money and resources on it.

...aaand no more OSS!

Only half-kidding. So many big and small projects are using GitHub as their primary repository and sometimes their only homepage. And there's all those benefits of it being something of a social network as well, and an issue tracker and so on.

I'm sure something else would take its place, but it would take a while before it gets as much momentum.

I wonder how much of a social network it really is. What's the value you get out of other people having their OSS projects on GitHub? Yes, it's all on one site/domain but if Google Search is your entry point, does it matter if the OSS code lives on Bitbucket, GitHub or GitLab?

4 years ago I thought that my GitHub account will get more important, the identity will matter but is that really the case? I don't see the typical network effects and behavior of a social network.

I think all there's is the perception of GitHub being the default choice. That's powerful but far less powerful than truly increased value for me as an user because of the size of the network, you being an user too (eg. Twitter or Uber).

On the other hand, as Git is a DVCS even if GitHub went down the repos still live on local developer machines, so it'd be easy enough to move to a different Git hosting provider.

People keep bringing that up, but that's missing the bigger picture: GitHub is more than just a git host, it's also a "social hub" where people can fork repos and offer changes back (pull requests), a passable bugtracker (issues), even wiki, and even web host (github.io).

Many people have warned that using these added-value features makes you dependent on GitHub (Linus Torvalds has a kernel mirror on GitHub, but for this reason refuses to use its other features). Migrating all that metadata is hard (is it even possible?).

Joey Hess' github-backup backs up everything github knows about a repository (including branches, tags, other forks, issues, comments, wikis, milestones, pull requests, watchers, and stars) to the repository.

I'm sure most of these could be re-imported into an alternative service through its API, even if with some loss of fidelity.


That's awesome. I need to send JoeyH more money.

(for others: he's also the creator of git-annex, an out-of-band file storage extension to git, and for a long time was the maintainer of critical parts of Debian's ecosystem. He likes to live in a yurt: http://joeyh.name/yurt/)

The other problem is that "cloud services" have taught people not to back up their data.

The problem is social hubs add very little real value and are easily replaceable, especially among technically astute people.

I think Github is a prime example of how much a "social hub" can add. In the 6 years or so before GH, do you think I ever send a patch upstream? Now, collaborating is almost easier than not doing it, and it's an awesome community.

Oh, but they do add a lot of real value. In fact, they're extremely efficient at making this value - so efficient that they don't get to monetize anything but a small fraction of it.

There are plenty of replacements. Bitbucket, gitlab, etc.

I actually prefer bitbucket because I don't have to pay for private repos.

You can have private repos for free on GitLab.com too.

Disclaimer: I work at GitLab.

I was completely unaware of that. Thanks for the heads up. I use gitlab at work, and now I might try it for my personal projects.

I moved a bunch of repos to bitbucket, since they support free private repositories (which I need for a small organization that I'm part of). It was, as your comment alludes, extremely quick and easy thanks to the "D" in DVCS.

That said, we don't use issues, the wiki, etc.

It's worth nothing that GitHub isn't just a pretty Git frontend anymore. It's also a de-facto CDN and host for projects (Homebrew, CocoaPods come to mind), as well as a blogging and demonstration platform (GitHub pages).

In these roles, GitHub is of tremendous value and not immediately replaceable.

It's my impression that they really don't want to be a CDN. One might suggest that as a service that could generate revenue if they charged for it, however none of the cheapskates using GitHub as a CDN would ever consider paying for a CDN...

I can't blame them (being GitHub). Bandwidth and storage can be expensive.

That being said, I think it's inaccurate to characterize the people using GitHub as a CDN uniformly as "cheapskates". Many are just open source developers, often of limited means, trying to expose their work to the largest audience possible.

I disagree.

When you just start your project you may use github as your CDN and hope no one notices, but when you are as big as homebrew using someones elses resources like this is a pretty bad practice.

Github brings additional value that just being a DVCS - I manage all of my external consultants through it (assign work through issues, often review/approve PR's via the UI, able to easily share a link to a specific line of code, easily share info via the wiki etc).

There are obviously alternatives but the Github UI just makes it so easy to work with others.

Yeah, but you lose a lot. Issues, Wikis, Github Pages, CI, Reviews, Projects etc.

The features that github has would be pretty hard to migrate even to something that has almost 1:1 feature parity like GitLab. I don't know of an export tool they have for all the data associated with github.

> It was bad enough [...] when SourceForge had their "great purge" of inactive projects.

What purge? I'm personally aware of some projects which are still on SourceForge which haven't been touched in >10 years. If there was a purge, it must have been limited to projects with no activity whatsoever.

I'm even more confused now. While the project monetization situation was certainly bad, it didn't result in the removal of any content that I'm aware of.

That's what happens with centralized systems it is inevitable, from the Roman Empire to Google Code nothing is permanent.

The laws of physics are.

The laws of physics are not centralized as governments, currency or google code / github, that aside they can and most probably are incomplete or expressed in a way that only applies to certain constraints (size, time, theory of relativity comes to mind)

The laws of physics aren't really laws at all, but rather the best guesses humans have for describing physical processes.

There are also more than one set of laws, and they're not all compatible with each other, which is why efforts are being made to provide a unified set of laws.


Mindless pedantry.

I think those are what determines permanency. But let's not be pedantic.

the laws of physics change each time our understanding does

Right. That's why we never find out we were wrong about anything in science.

The laws of physics aren't interchangeable with our understanding of them

And in that case, maybe our understanding that there are laws of physics and that they don't change is false.

That's a philosophically naive view of how science works.

Claiming that our understanding of science 500 years ago is at all equitable to the way science works in 2016 is even more naive.

That's the opposite of what I'm claiming so maybe you should work on your reading rather than science. Our understanding changed over 500 years. And in another 500 years some moron will be saying the same thing you are, that we've always had perfect and final knowledge of science, and it will be just as stupid then.

I can't find the blog post, but some blog wrote a while ago why VCs invest in companies like Github. TL;DR -- basically it provides infrastructure for other startups.

The business itself may not be a great business due to the amount of cost it takes to run it -- but it's necessary for the running of other ventures.

Sort of like highways and non-toll bridges.

Except as pointed out in the article, the massive increase in spending was fairly frivolous. They spent crazy money on a new huge office, threw big parties, and sent their employees traveling everywhere. They also doubled their headcount, when I think we can all agree that they haven't had a surge in volume or features that merits that many new employees.

There's no reason that GitHub couldn't be run profitably if they weren't just out there burning VC money as quickly as possible.

I have been using GitHub for maybe 4 years and I feel like the number of features rolled out this year blows away the other years.

Review groups and Projets (kanban) have both been great.

GitLab started applying pressure and I think GitHub responded well, staying competitive in the face of a competent challenger.

> GitLab started applying pressure and I think GitHub responded well, staying competitive in the face of a competent challenger.

Exactly. That's what drives features and improvements.

VC money lets you buy new sneakers but if you're looking to lose weight, a tiger chasing you is a much stronger motivation.

It may have just been a coincidence. I believe they brought major features online two or three weeks after the HN-hatefest against them started, hardly enough time.

I'd also like to point out that Github was probably the most important change in OSS software by a wide margin. People easily forget comfort they've grown accustomed to, but it's worth to take a trip into the past from time to time: https://sourceforge.net/projects/avogadro/?source=frontpage&...

(and that's today's sourceforge – they didn't do much, but 10 years ago it was definitely even worse)

They built a replica of the Oval Office as their lobby. I don't think it lasted more than a year. It's all gone now, and not a spec of the original Oval Office is there anymore. It's an open seating area for coffee...

Nice big fat waste of money, right there.

You weren't kidding...


Hard to have much sympathy for that.

New features doesn't generally scale linearly with employee count (due to required communication paths, etc.) That said, I actually do think there's been an uptick in useful new features from GitHub this year. We use Phabricator at Khan Academy, and many aspects of Phab that were superior last year when I joined KA are now in line with GitHub's offering.

We've been working hard to remove features, introduce bugs, and decrease quality throughout the year.

Phabricator definitely has a superior sense of humor. (If anyone reading this hasn't checked out their website, I highly recommend it)

I was, of course, not trying to say that Phab was regressing but rather that GitHub had picked up the pace. There have absolutely been good improvements to Phab this year too!

In the case of Phabricator, I wonder if that sense of humor works against them. The first time I followed a link to their site and read the description[1], I was convinced that it was a joke poking fun at how ridiculous overwrought do-everything enterprise systems tend to be.

[1] https://www.phacility.com/phabricator/

Some back of a napkin sums would suggest the vast majority is headcount costs. 300 new employees at $150,000 is $45m/year.

I thought before they accepted VC money, they were profitable?

Are you saying that VCs are investing because they see companies like GitHub as being public goods? That's contrary to normal investing principles, unless there's some reason to think that a VC investing will result in their portfolio companies having superior access.

This could be the article the parent was referencing: http://words.steveklabnik.com/is-npm-worth-26mm

The point is more or less, if VC invests (or plans to) in 20 software companies, investing additionally in something like GitHub or npm makes it more likely that the other 20 companies will succeed. They don't invest just in GitHub from the goodness of their hearts.

I know nothing about investing but I feel somewhat skeptical about these arguments. How many startups actually failed because they were using a poor package manager or source control host?

This sounds more like a spin-off of the old investment adage: "Buy stock in the products you actually use." If you spin that argument slightly as a proxy purchase, it makes sense that VCs would be investing in the products that their other startups are using heavily.

As an super-small-time investor who only owns stock in companies whose products that I use and enjoy, I can't knock them for it. For me, the logic is that whenever I tire of using something or no longer find it valuable, presumably I'll have early insight to sell the stock before the rest of the world catches on. I don't know if that same logic applies to proxy buying, but I suppose if you're intimate enough with your companies to know if they're abandoning Github for something else, as I don't know if pulling venture capital is as easy as selling the stock.

> as I don't know if pulling venture capital is as easy as selling the stock.

There's generally minimal liquidity. During a round, an existing investor may have the opportunity to sell some shares to new/other investors, but if she knows something that's not coming out during diligence, there's definitely something fishy going on. If the round is shaping up to be a major up-round, maybe an early investor wants to lock in a good return, but that's beside the point here. And then of course if things really aren't going well for the company, you're looking at the bad kind of liquidity event--a liquidation.

So if a VC wants to pull out based on a negative hunch, it's probably either impossible or the signal itself will doom the company if it wasn't already doomed.

Just my 2 cents as a first-time founder.

Sounds about right to me.

A startup that can't iterate quickly enough will die by a thousand cuts, and it will be hard to say exactly what killed it. I'd certainly think using github can extend your runway by 5-10% (just in terms of how much time it saves we as a developer), and in a certain proportion of cases that will be the difference between success and failure.

To add, if Github goes into a death spiral they'll likely take a few of those 20 companies with them. In the same way if AWS goes down, so does half the Valley.

I'm actually curious how true is this. Most of the companies I talked to / read about use a very small set of services which are popular everywhere (compute + storage) or services which can be relatively easily distributed across other providers (for example outbound emails, event notifications, etc.) Projects that really use a lot of the AWS and are really tied up in that environment are much less common.

Is that a skewed view? Are there many big companies that would disappear without being able to move to a different platform in under 2 weeks?

I am hugely skeptical that this ever happens. Do you have any evidence?

I believe no VC is going to invest $50 million dollars purely in hope of vaguely helping the rest of their portfolio. While at the same time vaguely helping every other startup in existence, thus negating any advantage that might accrue to their own companies.

think people in the industry are just desperate to try and find justification and sanity where there really is none because it makes them feel the whole system is more stable than it truly is.

The reality is there is no reason for GitHub to have this much funding and spend so frivolously. This should be a warning.

As a natural monopoly seems closer to the GP's argument.

Actually... without any proofs whatsover, who knows who is really glancing over private repos parked at GitHub. I bet there are many projects with multi-million dollar source code (aka secret sauce) that many would love to look into.

> basically it provides infrastructure for other startups

The good news for them, is they can become much more. GitLab learned earlier on, the value of selling to Enterprise as opposed to startups. They (GitHub) really should have gone on a hiring blitz a few years ago, to find people who understood Enterprise.

GitHub, way over estimated the value of "social programming", when it comes to Enterprise. I would say 80% of programmers in Enterprise, are not passionate about programming and have no interest, in the "social" value, that is offered by GitHub Enterprise. The vast majority of Enterprise programmers see it as a job, and really don't care about what others are working on, unless it directly affects whether or not they can leave work on time.

What GitHub needs to focus on, is doing the hard things, that GitLab and Bitbucket will not be able to do, without serious R&D. I personally think, they should abandon Atom at this point, and use those resources to work on solving harder problems, that Enterprise would gladly pay for. Like better searches, better analytics/reports, better code reviews, and so forth.

more like 100%. But the better solution may be to reverse than instead of coping with the system in place.

In other words, "commoditizing the complements."

As GitHub makes certain parts of the software industry significantly more accessible or cheaper, its complements will succeed commensurately. For example, easy access to, and encouraged proliferation of, skilled talent and robust open source (free) software.

That GitHub provides infrastructure for other startups makes sense, but I'd strongly push back on the idea that VCs will invest in a particular company like GitHub primarily because they think it will improve their investments elsewhere. That's a leap in market forecasting, and the simpler (Occam's Razor) and more rational explanation is that they expect(ed) a good return with some added benefit to "the ecosystem."

I'd be more in favor of this argument if you restated it slightly as, "Investors like investing in companies like GitHub because they can initiate feedback loops with their existing investments that result in mutual prosperity."

I think I am missing the subtle distinction you are trying to make. It seems like you have real point, but I don't understand; could you expand on it?

In economic terms, it is beneficial for companies to "commoditize their complements." If flights to Miami become cheaper, hotels there can raise their rates. When web browsers became free and ubiquitous, it allowed web applications to prosper on the new influx of people with access to the internet. Google built an empire on this principle.

GitHub commoditizes (or more accurately, pressures costs lower to commoditization for) several complements that would otherwise reduce the profitability and viability of software based businesses. It provides widespread, free access to software as a hosting provider of open source software. It also provides widespread, comparatively low cost access to proven software talent as a sort of professional social network. As the costs associated with one part of an industry fall, the company that causes that decline and the companies that are complementary to those costs benefit greatly.

It is hard to start a new company offering a product for a market inefficiency that has been thoroughly solved for most use cases by commoditized, open source software. However, companies with a complementary relationship to that software will benefit greatly, either because they will have a wider market potential through new customers or because their own costs will drop precipitously. Similarly, developers commoditize themselves and their own costs to a company if they cease differentiating themselves or make it easier to find a supply of them. As an exercise, who do you think is better off in the video game industry - video game studios who make games with a de facto maximum price of $60 (ignoring DLC and in-game purchases), or Microsoft and Sony, who can charge for access to all of those games on an initial (hardware) and monthly (network) basis? Do you think it is in Apple's favor as a company that sells expensive hardware to have developers on their platform charge more or less for their software?

Anyway, my main point was acknowledging that, yes, GitHub makes a lot of other software companies easier through this principle, but no, I don't really agree that venture capitalists have this as an explicit investment strategy. That attributes to them spectacular market forecasting ability and there is a much simpler explanation, which is that they actually believe the company will do well.

Agree. It makes sense to diversify and have interests in other companies that are somewhat related to the wider business.

But... we're talking hundreds of millions of dollars in investment. I believe that's too much cash to be just about subsidizing some other companies.

IMO: GitHub has a business model, a reputation and recurring revenues. They may be a "normal"[1] business, with long term value and stable returns over time.

[1] i.e. not yet another ephemeral app with no plan for monetization that grows 100x then sells for 20B and dies 5 years later).

Sounds a little unlikely tbh. A VC fund exists to invest in a small portfolio of ventures to maximise returns over a fixed period to the Limited Partners who have invested in that particular fund. The Limited Partners aren't donating their money to help the wider ecosystem, and if they suspect the VC firm is investing in businesses without massive profit potential because they might assist the growth of startups in their other VC funds, it's lawyer time.

If that was the case, I think you would expect small investments from VCs and strong calls for sustainable spending. Github had a $100M Series A and a $250M Series B, so the VCs were not playing around when they invested. Even if a VC firm has a $1B fund, a $50M investment is 5% of the fund and has to be a serious investment.

Whoa. Dumb money, those VCs, if this is true.

A scrappy low-budget startup can do just fine with a medium sized vm on one of the several places renting vms, running a simple source code control system server. Blowing dozens of megabucks to build a palace in a high-rent district to replace something that's close to free seems, well, dumb.

Github is better. It just is. You don't have to worry about backups, it has great tools built on top of the vcs to make working with it and project management easier. It makes it easier to manage the D part of DVCS, and it lets you easily put your tools into the community.

I suspect they see it as a charity case, if true.

If you run an open-source project, the community is on Github and that's where they expect to file bugs. Most users/contributors already have their notifications tweaked the way that they like, understand the workflow and website, etc.

At this point, Github is in the same league as Wikipedia in terms of "a fantastic story of technology helping people to create ad-hoc, altruistic collaborations".

Of course github is better. That's not my point.

The question I'm asking is whether it's better enough to justify a vast investment. New businesses -- startups -- need to take actions to conserve their cash, and sometimes "good enough" is good enough.

It's especially important to get this right when one choice is an unprofitable unicorn-style company with vast cash outflow.

Is Marc Andreessen's "Software is Eating the World" the blog post you were referring to? http://genius.com/Marc-andreessen-why-software-is-eating-the... Linked to the Genius page because the original WSJ is behind a pay-wall[0].

  On the back end, software programming tools and Internet-based services make it easy to launch new global software-powered start-ups in many industries—without the need to invest in new infrastructure and train new employees.
[0]Pay-wall WSJ: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB100014240531119034809045765122...

That's a huge part of the investment behind Bitcoin's Blockstream. Blockstream pays more more development hours then any other entity by far. There's no direct revenue to be had by improving bitcoin-core.

But without that development we'd be stuck with less security, less features, and a blockchain that took weeks or months to download and verify (instead of days). Bitcoin is only possible because of the massive amount of development going into this unprofitable codebase.

And I believe that Blockstream's investors are well aware that they will never have direct ROI on many of those upgrades.

>The business itself may not be a great business due to the amount of cost it takes to run it -- but it's necessary for the running of other ventures.

The latter half of the statement applies to Stripe as well. The big difference between GitHub and Stripe is that Stripe's business model is more directly tied to the growth of entrepreneurship economy: the more money goes through Stripe-powered businesses, the more money Stripe makes. In GitHub's case, the correlation is less direct and less predictable.

I don't get it. They're taking one for the team? Seems more like dumping to stymie competition.

>I can't find the blog post

You probably meant this:


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