EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS


The GitHubification of Free Software

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 2:10 am by Guest Editorial Team

Article by Thomas Grzybowski

3 rabbits caged

Summary: “The optimal solution to the ongoing GitHubification of Free Software would be the creation of a successfully competitive software development repository specialized to the Free Software community.”

GitHub is proprietary software and a manifestation of surveillance capitalism right smack-dab on the face of it. But that is the very least of the problem here. GitHub is an existential problem for Free Software – a crisis that is almost completely obscured from our notice.

GitHub is a major part of Microsoft’s future, and it is not speculation to note that GitHub undermines Free Software. Microsoft is a company which has dedicated itself to ending the Free Software movement – a company which has formally banned the use of the GPL from any of its internal software. If anyone dismisses that GitHub can be an existential problem, see this example pointing to our future: https://www.gnu.org/software/fribidi/ . Here one thinks one is going to a GNU site, but is in fact being directed to Microsoft.

This observation is far from an isolated fact. Free Software advocate figosdev has painstakingly analyzed a vast array of GNU/Linux software packages and compiled volumes of information showing that GNU is becoming dependent upon GitHub in its development processes.




There is a long list of concerning facts documented in the above references, but in essence they add-up to show a strong and growing dependence of GNU “Free” software development upon GitHub: Perhaps most notably (being a basic GNU software development tool), GNU Bison has moved to GitHub, with Bison using GitHub for its development platform. The GNU repository is only a mirror. This is extremely problematic, and again not an isolated fact.

How did this situation come about? A major part of this “trap” is what is called the “Network Effect”. As each additional project-piece of software becomes embedded in GitHub, the “benefit” for each and all such projects increases – and the social cost of avoiding the site also increases. Already a GitHub presence is “expected”. And Microsoft has greased the slide by actually paying some project-leads to host their projects there.

In regards to the actual migrations onto GitHub, it can be a four-step process, each step seemingly trivial relative to the previous:

  1. Use of GitHub’s social interfaces for bug tracking.
  2. Use of GitHub as a mirror as a backup site, and “presence” for people’s convenience.
  3. Use of GitHub for development (seeing as most of the bug tracking and pulls happen there).
  4. GitHub becomes the canonical source site.

This is all pretty straightforward, above-board, and not a mystery. But, as we have seen documented above, the migration process is extensive and yet there has been little notice paid to the intrusion of this conduct into Free Software development. Let us be clear: Free Software and GNU are becoming dependent upon Microsoft.

Microsoft dependency is an existential crisis for Free Software. First of all, the source code and other content itself physically resides on Microsoft’s servers. These materials are then fully under their control and open to easy and extensive analysis for technical and strategic information. Surveillance activities involve the real names, locations and associations of people working with GitHub. And there are yet other real and potential benefits to Microsoft emerging from having the source code under their control:

  1. Censorship, and the implicit threat thereof.

  2. Blackmail – the implicit or explicit threat of loss of service or censorship.

  3. Manipulatively granting some projects preferential treatment, payment, or services.

  4. Behavior manipulation and opinion modification – through GitHub payments, site messaging, and marketing.

  5. Outright (direct) monetization of use.

What can be done about this situation? Here things become even more problematic. Earlier in the history of GNU, Free Software was widely perceived to be incommensurate with the activities of companies such as Microsoft. (Microsoft’s aggressively monopolistic and proprietary practices at the time being exceedingly well documented.) In fact, Free Software can be seen largely as a reaction to these behaviors. Psychologically there was a good degree of oppositional motivation: programmers could see matters as being one of “Us vs Them” when thinking about Microsoft, and the Free Software movement was able to progress. But now that Microsoft “Loves Linux”, etc., this motivation becomes weak, diluted, undirected. When “Them” (the non-Free Software forces) are a large part of “Us”, the situation changes markedly, and what needs to be done to advance our freedoms becomes extremely difficult.

So, What To Do? One, I think, would be for any Free Software organization worth the name to require appropriately licensed software to be hosted on the home server or other vetted open-source, Free Software server for development. Proprietary services would be out of the question, as they are non-Free with users having no knowledge of what is going on behind the scenes.

An immediate step is for any important project which is being developed on GitHub to be encouraged to move off of that platform. If the project in question does not have a mirror, it should be mirrored elsewhere, ideally with the permission of the project manager, but not necessarily. This is indeed what Free Software is all about. In this way, if GitHub censors any project it will still remain immediately accessible to users. This mirroring also bleeds-off just a little of Microsoft’s implicit denial-of-service threat they hold over their client projects. Each of us should pick a project we wish to mirror and maintain that mirror!

The optimal solution to the ongoing GitHubification of Free Software would be the creation of a successfully competitive software development repository specialized to the Free Software community. Such a site (or set of distributed sites) could well be a successful replacement to GitHub because it would not be subject to the limitations, compromises, and contradictions inherent to a private proprietary entity run for profit. The effort needed to achieve such a success may be seen as prohibitive – but, as we have seen above, it is necessary.

Share in other sites/networks: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Reddit
  • email
  • Slashdot

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one


  1. Babby Mann said,

    May 9, 2020 at 4:59 pm


    I’m flabbergasted by this piece. It’s riddled with unsubstantiated claims and runs down rabbit holes without clear direction. I’m not going to defend Microsoft, principle member of the Oligarchy, but I’m not even sure how you think they’ll achieve some of the oppressive things you claim they will perpetrate on FOSS through GitHub?

    It even sounds like the unhinged ravings of a lunatic.

    PS: I’m posting as Babby Mann because I don’t need the inevitable stream of unreasoning rage I’m going to get over the mere suggestion of collusion with “the enemy.”

    PPS: You people seriously need to get your SSL shit together. They cost nothing but a little time with configuration and you put all of your readers at risk by leaving your WordPress configuration wide open.

    PPPS: If you can’t secure an installation of WP, how can you comment on software freedom?

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    figosdev has asked me to relay the following reply for him:

    I’m flabbergasted by this piece. It’s riddled with unsubstantiated claims and runs down rabbit holes

    really? weve literally been talking about this subject all week here. it would be redundant for tom to rehash everything so far. i mean it literally links to part 1, 2 and 3– you didnt notice? where even a critic of part 2 said that part 3 had more substance.

    i guess you werent paying attention. just wanted to vent?

    I’m not even sure how you think they’ll achieve some of the oppressive things you claim they will perpetrate on FOSS through GitHub?

    was that a question? its worded like a statement, but you stuck a question mark at the end. were you unsure of your statement?

    It even sounds like the unhinged ravings of a lunatic.

    i suppose it would, if you were completely unaware of everything weve talked about this week. there are really no giant leaps in toms commentary– maybe go attack the articles i wrote instead, theyre what prompted tom in the first place.

    PS: I’m posting as Babby Mann because I don’t need the inevitable stream of unreasoning rage I’m going to get over the mere suggestion of collusion with “the enemy.”
    well its a stupid name, as far as “unreasoning rage” i think theres some projecting going on– not unlike the trolling going on in irc this week.

    its funny that you just assume that we will accuse you of being “with the enemy” and that you make note of the fact that youre posting with an alias, because that lines up with the behaviour of the irc troll. when youre so quick to deny things we havent accused you of, you might be overcompensating to hide that youre actully what you claim not to be. that makes everything else you said even funnier.

    you could just be a guys whos bored and needs to do this for a laugh, its only the timing (on the heels of the quite rare irc troll) that makes it suspect and priceless.

    PPS: You people seriously need to get your SSL shit together.

    its a work in progress, well commented on in articles already. is this the first time your boss sent you here? welcome to techrights.

    if youre looking for stuff to troll, i wrote part 1, 2 and 3. part 4 is coming up, if youd like to grace it with your presence and keen wit. if youre not afraid to use an “insecure” website, that is. cheers.

  2. Babby Mann said,

    May 10, 2020 at 2:08 pm


    So, on your suggestion, I “read” through the other parts of this epic (?) condemnation of Microsoft’s grand, decades-long effort to take over open source.

    Aside from the fact that everything presented is a rehash of the same tired idea over and over again, ad nauseum, there is nothing more than a single point being made throughout; Microsoft is evil.

    Your evidence is that project X requires dependencies Y and Z and Q and those are all hosted or mirrored on GitHub, which is now owned by Microsoft and, since Microsoft is evil incarnate, then these projects are subject to Microsoft’s evil intentions.

    I tracked back a bit further to the Abbot Labs piece. That is truly horrible and I’d like to see many, many corporate executives and their lawyers burn in hell (or, at least have a channel I can tune into to have a laugh now and then as they flail about infernally), but this only serves to illustrate that our legal system hasn’t been up to the task of adjudicating technical law, like, forever…

    Let’s examine that a bit by looking at Google. Google offers their own code repo system. They also “started” the Android project. Hell, Google was built on FOSS, but they’ve managed to build an empire on ad revenues and walled gardens, a sort of low rent Apple. Chromium is yet another open source project, which Google turned into Chrome, the world’s most used web browser, and is yet another part of their ecosystem.

    Google, it seems, has had the chance to “take over” open source for some time now. While I’m sure there have been instances where people have made bad choices and courts have flubbed decisions, I don’t see where Google has actually managed to control anything FOSS they initially created to the point where it prevents anyone from forking them, and their source control service clearly can’t blackmail or censor anyone, at least not that I’ve seen or heard of.

    Transpose Microsoft with Google, and you get the same problems with your cries of the sky falling. Again, the Abbot Labs thing is atrocious and will hopefully be corrected by another court, but it doesn’t correlate to the idea that because M$ owns GitHub it can freely take over FOSS projects and make them closed source, or is just stealing the time and talent of millions of coders.

    There are a number of problems with the systems we all use and rely on, whether we are directly aware of it or not. The courts don’t know how to deal with technology. There are too many forms of FOSS license. The general public doesn’t know anything about FOSS and there’s a hard line between not being technical and being an open source advocate that most people can’t cross, much less find due to all of the fragmentation and abstraction.

    To that end, who can really explain what the difference between free beer and free speech actually is, an abstract concept that most people just don’t understand in the context of software, its development, and its usage. Can you, in a way that makes sense?

    So, I’m not going to defend Microsoft, or any corporate pigdog entities out there, but the thousands upon thousands of words written on this blog about this subject isn’t going to convince anyone with a basic sense of pragmatism and critical thinking skills that the sky is falling.

    Not to be too crass, but if the argument for open source was so compelling, why isn’t the world using it by default? The answer to that is simple in that the open source community at large hasn’t come up with a compelling enough argument that open source is better than what they have now.

    Back to the principle point, though, you and the other person aren’t making any case as to HOW Microsoft will subvert the existing FOSS ecosystem to make it all their own and censor it aside from citing their ownership of GitHub. And somebody else owned GitHub before Microsoft and they charged more for less and had the same legal restrictions, but it wasn’t as bad before M$ bought it, so I guess I’m confused as to what you think is happening here.

    I’d certainly be interested in hearing any theories on the mechanics of how M$ would take over FOSS or how the censorship part might work, or how they might close open sources or force open sources to restrict access.

    There’s a few projects from a guy somewhere. One of them is WebCatalog which runs on Electron. Dude charges money to unlock unlimited apps. His projects are hosted on GitHub, too. It appears he built everything on FOSS. What should happen to him?

    This is my first time trolling. How’m I doing?

    PS: Let’s Encrypt was started by the EFF so everyone, EVERYONE, could have free SSL certs for their web sites, even this site!

  3. Canta said,

    May 10, 2020 at 2:15 pm



    Just don’t.

    Do not answert to that. There may or may not be legit statements there, but this is Internet, and you’re tracking attention. That is: you may or may not be feeding a troll. Under the doubt, you don’t answer. And that is not about being right, but about hygiene.

    If you still want to answer some of the points, please take your time and write another article. Don’t answer this stuff quickly and with “winning a debate” in mind. It just don’t work.

  4. dan2 said,

    May 11, 2020 at 10:28 pm


    Seems to me this project could be a solution. It’s licensed with MIT, so the FSF may not like it, but it’s basically self-hosted GitHub. I’ve been hosting my code on it for awhile and it works well.


    It is, ironically, itself, hosted on GitHub, but they do mention they plan to be self hosting.

  5. Dr. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 12, 2020 at 12:45 am


    Gitea was mentioned in http://techrights.org/2020/05/08/gnuhub-pt-3/

    Yes, we still wait to see if they make the migration happen.

What Else is New

  1. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) Identified Some of the Children in the Pornographic 'Stash' of Bill Gates' Engineer

    Today we carefully and responsibly disclose just 9 pages (out of about 2700 pages) with slightly redacted samples and a handful of exemptions to show what Bill Gates' engineer was amassing, including identified kids (known to NCMEC)

  2. A Red Hat Response to Factual Information About Red Hat

    So far we've seen only Red Hat employees blasting our articles about Red Hat/IBM and the responses lack any substance, just name-calling (so we must be on the right track; there's no refutation so far)

  3. Always Look for Stories the Media is Suppressing and Hiding

    Based upon closer scrutiny of the Jones case (engineer of Bill Gates arrested for pedophilia at the Gates mansion), the sentence he received is incredibly negligible or close to nothing (for possession and sharing/dissemination of massive troves of child pornography, typically leading to many years in prison), so we’re closely examining if he’s still working and whether he still works for Bill and Melinda (more FOIA requests may be necessary)

  4. On Web Servers, Microsoft's Collapse Continues More Rapidly Under COVID (a Million Domains Lost in the Past Month)

    Even though the Microsoft-sponsored media repeatedly refuses (or strangely enough just 'fails') to report on it, the days of Microsoft's IIS are likely numbered; it won't be long before less than a million computers run it

  5. Canonical is Boosting Microsoft's Proprietary Software With Extensive Surveillance

    Canonical’s commitment to Free software barely exists; with so-called “Apps” and “Snaps” and “Stores” we’re seeing a gradual transition to — and acceptance of — blobs and DRM, including Microsoft lock-in inside Ubuntu

  6. IRC Proceedings: Wednesday, August 12, 2020

    IRC logs for Wednesday, August 12, 2020

  7. Harfbuzz Joins LibFFI, Zlib1g in Dragging GNOME, All Free Software Towards Microsoft

    "...I don’t want to help them help Microsoft control my computing by proxy — by controlling the development platform itself"

  8. Links 12/8/2020: Go 1.15, LibreOffice 7.0 Downloaded About Half a Million Times, LibreELEC (Leia) 9.2.4

    Links for the day

  9. Mega Setup, Mini Budget

    For a sum total of under £800 (eight hundred British pounds are about USD/$1043) one can piece together a versatile working environment (my latest additions, as of 5 days ago, are the 4 plastic plants)

  10. Twitter Appears to Have Taken Vendor/Platform Lock-in up Another Notch, Having Become Almost as Malicious as Facebook

    Twitter jumped the shark

  11. IRC Proceedings: Tuesday, August 11, 2020

    IRC logs for Tuesday, August 11, 2020

  12. Infographic by Marcia Wilbur: Where's My Refund?!

    Tweet by Marcia Wilbur:

  13. Links 12/8/2020: New GNU Emacs, GXml-0.20, WordPress 5.5, and Mozilla is Laying off 250 Staff

    Links for the day

  14. You Just Know Somebody is in a State of Retreat When the Strategy Becomes to Discredit One's Critics (or Collectively Paint Them All as Wrong/Crazy)

    A goulash of bullcrap from Bill Gates doesn't add up; it seems like his media strategy has warped (or fallen back) onto discrediting his critics as though they don't exist, don't know anything, or are simply jealous

  15. United States v IBM Archives/Resources

    As the massive case against IBM monopoly (United States v IBM; 104,400 pages of trial transcripts and 17,000 exhibits) predates the World Wide Web it's difficult to find comprehensive literature about it any longer (Wikipedia and more modern sites are instruments of revisionism and reputation laundering)

  16. History Goes in Cycles

    Just like antiwar activism was 'quelled' or 'pacified' half a century ago nowadays we're led to think that software freedom is just fine and there's nothing left to argue about (except words and other petty nonsense)

  17. Looking Back at the Real Story of Microsoft

    Let's take a moment to examine what Microsoft was all along (since its formation in 1975)

  18. Europe Deserves Better Than Today's EPO

    Overly restrictive society with countless monopolies (even on seeds!) will neither serve people nor will it breed general acceptance

  19. European Patent Office Management Swims With Sharks and Liars

    It has become increasingly if not abundantly evident that European Patent Office President Campinos is no better than Battistelli as he’s still a ‘darling’ of patent litigation trolls and their front groups/lawyers

  20. Linked In to Pedophilia

    As the above articles show (one published a couple of days ago), the 'Web of Lies' and the incredible deceit/cover-up run deep and we still lack answers from those who enabled what Salon has just said involved "trafficking five or six girls a day."

  21. Whistleblower Aid Already Showed Cover-up of Bill Gates 'Contributions' to MIT

    The Goodwin Procter report which failed to actually investigate whether Gates and Epstein jointly directed payments to MIT (the latter was already dead) can be understood differently in light of the above leak, which was published earlier this year

  22. IRC Proceedings: Monday, August 10, 2020

    IRC logs for Monday, August 10, 2020

  23. Proof (Archived Original Letter): Bill Gates Lied to the New Yorker, BBC and Others About Connection of MIT Money to Mr. Jeffrey Epstein and Their Close Relationship

    As the article (“The anatomy of Bill Gates’ Jeffrey Epstein-facilitated MIT donations”) put it at the time (just 2 days before Dr. Stallman received all the heat at MIT), “Secrecy in the funding of academic programs is highly problematic, as University of Virginia professor Siva Vaidhyanathan explains in a long Twitter thread. “Companies and the billionaires who run them are always bending research agendas (and sometimes even results) to their interests,” he writes. “Anonymity would prevent any examination or accountability.”” But there are more high-level Microsoft links to Mr. Epstein; “Hoffman invited both former MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito and Epstein to an August 2015 dinner in Palo Alto with Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Peter Thiel. He tells Axios that he invited Epstein at Ito’s behest, and only because Ito vouched for the convicted criminal, saying that he had successfully cleared MIT’s vetting process.” In 2016 the article “Bill Gates talked to Reid Hoffman about being on Microsoft’s board of directors” was published. “Furthermore,” it notes, “Gates and Hoffman have a lot in common: They both hold board seats and advisory roles, and no other formal status or day-to-day obligations, at the tech companies they founded.”

  24. All This Happened While Bill Gates' Engineer Was on Trial for Amassing Child Pornography

    While MIT relies on the word of someone who repeatedly lied about his relationship with Mr. Epstein (refuted even by MIT itself), the record shows what happened just when Bill Gates’ own engineer faced conviction for pedophilia (the media diverted attention to Dr. Stallman just days after the above E-mails came to light)

  25. Links 10/8/2020: Popcorn Computers Pocket PC, Finnix 121, GhostBSD 20.08.04, EasyOS 2.3.8

    Links for the day

  26. IRC Proceedings: Sunday, August 09, 2020

    IRC logs for Sunday, August 09, 2020

  27. Release: Bill Gates' Engineer Busted for More Child Pornography Than Reported in the Media

    Based on our analysis, which was repeated carefully twice, the sum of recognised hashes turns out to be about 7,500 (7,430 objects), which is more than was reported in the media after the arrest of Rick Allen Jones at Bill Gates' mansion

  28. Links 10/8/2020: KPhotoAlbum 5.7.0 and MX Linux RC

    Links for the day

  29. UserLibre: What I Want You to Get From This Book

    "Corporate-backed lies run the world, and the FSF used to get in the way."

  30. Even the Mainstream/Corporate Media is Trying to Study Why (or If) Bill Gates and Epstein's Sex Abuse Ring Were Closely Connected

    People in the media are eager to understand why Mr. Gates was so close to Mr. Epstein and even flew his plane (despite having several of his own)

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

Recent Posts