The extraordinary success of git(hub)

The previous post, How I developed my git aversion, talked about things that happened in the middle of 2007.

That was nearly a year before the launch of github, which launched publicly in April 2008. I know that because I just looked it up. I’m not sure I would have believed it otherwise: git without github seems like an alien idea.

Still, it must be true that github didn’t exist then, because it would have solved the two problems that I had with git. It answers the question of where to push to, when you’re using a random collection of computers that aren’t always on; and it provides the community of people you can ask questions of when you find yourself baffled.

And that community is? All developers. Or at least, all those who ever work in the open.

The amazing success of github—and it is facilitated by the architecture of git, if not the syntax of its tools—is to produce a public use of version control software that is completely out of proportion to the number of developers who ever cared about it before.

That’s because github has so many users who are not classic “software developers”, but I suspect that it’s also because so many software developers would never otherwise use version control at all. I can’t believe that very many of github’s current users are there for the version control. They’re there for lightweight and easy code sharing. Version control is a happy accident, a side-effect of using this social site for your code.

I still don’t really use github myself, partly because I don’t really use git and partly because of a social network antipathy. (I don’t use Facebook or Google+ either.) But it’s a truly extraordinary thing that they’ve done.