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Ray Ozzie’s not alone: Everyone loves Github

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Welcome to the age of Github, when software development is as much about mashing up or connecting snippets of existing code as it is about writing that code in the first place.

As more applications move to the cloud, the preferred method of managing development — and for finding code that already exists — is Github, the open source code repository and versioning system used by more than 1.4 million developers (according to the Github site.)

No less an expert than Ray Ozzie, former chief software architect at Microsoft(s msft), gave Github itself, and the open source development model it represents, a rousing endorsement at the recent GeekWire Summit.

“Development is much more of an assembly process than it ever has been in the past, because there are so many components out there, on Github or wherever, that you can assemble into a working solution very, very rapidly,” Ozzie said. While Microsoft was diametrically opposed to open source — and is still a bastion of commercial, proprietary software — the company softened that stance during Ozzie’s tenure, so his stance here shouldn’t have been too much of a shock.

While Github’s sweet spot is open source development, there’s quite a bit of commercial code work going on there as well, said Uri Cohen, VP of product management for Gigaspaces, a frequent user.

Developers like Cohen and Peter Eddy, a Boston-based programmer, know this well and attest that Github adds a recycling option to the old build-versus-buy decision.

Depending on what the end product is, developers can find almost any function they need  as a free library or as a cheap hosted service, said Eddy. That means reusing rather than writing a lot of this code.

Eddy sees this as the continuation of a trend. A decade ago, there were free operating systems and some simple databases that developers could build on. Five years ago, there were  “really good, free databases” and “pretty good” free web frameworks. “Now there are plenty of good, even great libraries and frameworks for almost anything you can imagine — natural language processing, Google-style MapReduce, statistics, message buses, VoIP servers, machine learning,” Eddy said.

Eric Fernberg, a developer with Boston-based, said that Github also makes it easier to reuse any code that is written in-house. “We do everything here modularly, so we take the snippets of our code and reuse them for every client,” he said.

The Github repository is searchable and ranks projects and repositories regularly by popularity, and it gives developers a single place to manage both the code itself and relevant material.

“You cooperate with the community not just on the source code but the documentation and anything related to the project, which is a big plus,” Cohen said. “We can share our doc with users, then can take it, change it and donate it back. It’s a huge advantage.”

Code repository alternatives include and Google Code, but neither have gained anything near Github’s mindshare, at least according to an unscientific sample of developers.

Update: Many prefer Github’s Git source control system to the SVM SVN versioning system in Google(s goog) Code. Google Code supports Git, SVN and Mercurial repositories. “The question is whether you want to expose what you’re doing to a site managed by Google, which is a giant, and who knows what they’ll do with it,” said Cohen.

As developers seek to create quality products quickly that work in this world of multiple mobile devices, this agile development model of reusable code that is well-managed and tracked  will remain critical.

Ozzie photo courtesy of Jeff Sandquist.

15 Responses to “Ray Ozzie’s not alone: Everyone loves Github”

  1. Arthur Dent

    > softened that stance during Ozzie’s tenure, so his stance >here shouldn’t have been too much of a shock.

    I call BS on that PR.
    MS has their own license which is useless for most but…. themlselves.
    In the past 5 years, they have attacked open source at every opportunity, through FUD, threats and lawsuits.

    MS still claims that Linux is stealing 215 patents from them while refusing to answer which ones. Its taking a cut from Android sales from by threathening litigation.
    MS loves open source done their way fortheir benefit.

    And MS leader in chief still hasnt changed his stance of the fact that we users of Red Hat are stealing from them.

    i could go on for a long time on what MS does to damage open source and all the self serving craptrap from Bill Milf, Sam Raimi and others wont change that.

    heck, we could spend a whole year discussing the MS extortion methodology which they put into full gear after their Novell agreement. As a non-compensated individual hobbyist, it was exactly the kind of garbage MS supporters point to as their willingness which severely handicapped my work on compensated and non-compensated projects.

    For all its faults and problems with privacy, Google is years ahead in its support of open source than MS will probably ever be.
    As bad they can be with information, they do understand and embrace open source to an extent that MS never will because Redmond doesnt understand cooperation. In its world, even its partners end up getting in the rear eventually.

  2. Richard

    Good article that captures the explosion of open source. A couple of basic errors in this snippet though: “the SVM versioning system in Googled Code” should refer to SVN and Google Code. And in fact Google Code uses SVN (Subversion), Mercurial or Git, as a minute’s research proved:

    GitHub provides social code sharing features beyond what Git or Google Code provide, but please get your facts right.

  3. This article would’ve been fine without the inaccurate info about Microsoft’s supposed lack of involvement in open source. Yeah they were late to the game but they have been very involved in the last 5 years.

  4. Jeff Putz

    Microsoft was opposed to open source? Really? You have heard of CodePlex, right? And get this, it even supports Mercurial, which is the new hotness in distributed source control.

      • You aren’t looking back far enough. Microsoft has been running CodePlex, an open source project hosting site, since 2006. It predates GitHub. I know, because I worked on the developer community apps team from 2009 to 2011. The Ms-PL license was approved by the Open Source Initiative in 2007.

        “While Microsoft was diametrically opposed to open source — and is still a bastion of commercial, proprietary software…”

        This is hyperbole, and I’m calling you out on it. Microsoft contributes to the most popular Javascript framework on the planet, jQuery, hosts countless open source frameworks in its Azure services, and uses a great many open source products in its Web-based properties.

    • NetHawk Interactive

      Microsoft has work assiduously over the last fifteen years, at least, to cling to their proprietary model. They have crushed so many startups and come alongs and used their might to selectively choose opportunities as their last resort. By the time they decide to open up their operating system, it will only be because they are irrelevant. The stories are epic so to selectively choose the few instances where they capitulated and attempted to look Open, is futile.

      • Joseph Eckert

        Take it from a long-time OSS guy, Microsoft was no friend to OSS (and still isn’t), while publicly (mostly) trying to play nice they very aggressively seeded (and continue to seed) amazingly vicious FUD about OSS. They take advantage of OSS tools when it suits them but continues to undermine OSS whenever it suits them.

  5. Matt Eagar

    Yes – my favorite SCM hosting service. Subversion is OK, but it doesn’t work well for really large repositories (e.g., if you have a custom build of an entire desktop OS). Underlying technology aside, GitHub provides a fantastic user experience, and we all know that’s the main driver for this stuff. They also have the pricing right (free for FOSS, reasonable for private projects – we do both).