Summary:

GitHub shut down binary code uploads in December but last week brought them back. In the meantime, JFrog claimed lots of converts for its Bintray binary repository.

Binary code
photo: extradeda

Here’s something that slipped through the cracks during the holiday week when some of us (ahem) were at the beach: GitHub, which pulled the plug on binary code uploads six months ago, reinstated that capability last week, albeit in a way that it says is more elegantly integrated into its overall workflow.

Lots of developers — Github claimed 3.5 million in April — use Github both to store their source code and as the workflow and social platform that lets development teams collaborate on projects. Source code can be likened to the blue print of a software program — it’s the guts but it cannot be consumed as is by a computer. A binary code release brings together compiled source code, putting those blueprints into something that is readable by the computer. Other than code itself, a binary release typically includes documentation and installers — the stuff needed to put the software on a machine and run it.

Source code = blue print; binary code = house

After GitHub discontinued its binary feature in December, Google Code, another repository, followed suit by dropping its binary upload/download capability in May. But nature (and competitors) abhor a vacuum. JFrog, the upstart company behind Bintray, a binary repository and collaboration platform, rushed to fill the void, adding automatic migration of binaries from GitHub in April.

And it got traction. It claims 140 percent growth in new registrations in the two weeks following that GitHub migration move. After Google Code shut down its binaries, Bintray claimed more than 250 percent growth in registrations and more than 220 percent growth in new packages published in subsequent weeks. As of now, Bintray says it has served up more than 63,000 software packages and has 5,600 users. That’s a small fraction compared to GitHub, but it ain’t nothing either.

Here’s what GitHub said in the December blog post announcing the curtailment of binary uploads:

“We encourage you to continue distributing your code through downloadable source code archives. However, some projects need to host and distribute large binary files in addition to source archives. If this applies to you, we recommend using one of the many fantastic services that exist exactly for this purpose such as Amazon S3 / Amazon CloudFront or SourceForge. Check out our help article on distributing large binaries.”

GitHub reconsiders, will Google Code do likewise?

But then the San Francisco-based GitHub apparently revisited its decision to dump binaries and hence Releases was, um, released, last week. The company characterized it as a much better feature than the one it previously axed.

Brian Doll, GitHub’s “marketing badass,” said via email that the old uploads feature, which let users “store arbitrary files separate from the source code hosted on GitHub … wasn’t as high-quality as the rest of the GitHub experience, and it didn’t fit well into most user workflows.”

He added, that the new feature brings that workflow for shipping software to end users. “Releases” includes:

“the ability to attach binary files to a release (a compiled executable, for example), but the similarities end there. Releases is integrated into the rest of GitHub flow and includes release versioning (including unofficial releases, like alphas, betas, release candidates), release notes, links to source downloads, and software downloads.”

Whatever the motivation for GitHub Releases, JFrog, based in Netanya, Israel and Milpitas, Calif., thinks its success drawing developers to Bintray had an impact. Said Shlomi-Ben Haim, JFrog CEO: “JFrog welcomes GitHub back to the software distribution and binaries management domain!”  And he wanted to point out that JFrog stuck with developers the whole time.

Art courtesy of Shutterstock user extradeda.

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