Dive into GitHub: the Facebook for developers


In eight years, GitHub has become the reference code hosting platform by playing on its social and collaborative dimension. It brings together more than 5.8 million developers, including those from Microsoft, Facebook and NASA.

GitHub has been in the news this summer. When the “Shadow Brokers”, a mysterious group of hackers released spyware from the NSA (US intelligence agency), it was on the code hosting platform that they did so. A telling sign. Since its launch eight years ago, GitHub has become a must for developers around the world. From FreeCodeCamp, a program for learning how to code, to the source code for the Apollo 11 space mission, it’s all there.

5.8 million active users

According to its latest activity report, over the last 12 months the platform has welcomed more than 5.8 million active users (including 815,000 new ones) from 331,000 organizations, for 19.4 million active code deposits. In the wake of its spectacular turnaround in favour of open source, Microsoft has become its main contributor, ahead of Facebook and Docker.

Plongeon au cœur de GitHub : le Facebook des développeurs
Screenshot of the GitHub desktop. Capture

GitHub’s audience? It is recruited, of course, among software publishers and web players (26%), followed by BtoB services (15%), education (8%), manufacturing (8%) and then equal points (6%): health, media, telecoms or distribution. The BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are also making record progress. Note that 44% of Fortune 50 companies used GitHub Enterprise (a paid offer) in 2016.

In the list of the most used languages on GitHub, we find far ahead of JavaScript

In the list of the most used languages on GitHub, we find far ahead of JavaScript with more than 1.6 million open contributions then, in a handkerchief, Java, Python and Ruby. After that, PHP, C++, CSS, C# and C are in the middle of the table.

Breaking the chains that hindered the code

It was the massive denial-of-service attack that GitHub suffered in March 2015 that showed how strategic the platform was to a large number of users, both amateur and professional. At its core, GitHub is a web hosting service where you can deposit a few lines of code or more complex applications. A work that is submitted to the public appreciation. Anyone can look at it, annotate it, or even propose a modification.

The idea of GitHub came, in October 2007, from three developers in Silicon Valley. Chris Wanstrath, PJ Hyett and Tom Preston-Werner wanted to simplify their day-to-day work with a centralized interface for suggestions for improvement. They also wanted to free themselves from the cumbersome system of open source communities where each contributor must download the project’s sources, then propose their modifications to the assigned developers. With GitHub, a developer can “fork”, i.e. make a copy of an existing software and freely experiment with its modifications without altering the original code.

Plongeon au cœur de GitHub : le Facebook des développeurs
GitHub integrates a project management tool for developers working in agile methods, which follows the logic of Trello © Capture

A unicorn valued at $2 billion

Rather than reinventing the wheel, the three developers have taken Git, a version management software developed two years earlier by Linus Torvalds. While evolving its command line console to a more user-friendly interface. Since the launch of the platform in April 2008, collaborative features have been added such as the ability to create a wiki and a web page for each repository. Renamed the “Facebook of developers”, GitHub allows, like a social network, to follow developers or projects.

GitHub employs 600 people and expects to generate over $100 million in revenue

Based in San Francisco, GitHub employs 600 people worldwide and expects more than $100 million in annual revenue according to Business Insider. In July 2015, the company raised $250 million after raising $100 million three years earlier. That fundraising valued it at $2 billion according to the Wall Street Journal. The Andreessen Horowitz fund, always in the right moves (Facebook, Airbnb…), was present in both rounds.

Because the unicorn that chose as its logo a very cute cat with tentacles instead of legs (Octotat) knows how to make money. If access to GitHub for open source and public projects is free, there are three types of subscription for private and unlimited source code repositories. An individual subscription at 7 dollars per month, an “organization” offer at 9 dollars per month and per user with an administration console and, finally, the “enterprise” subscription at 22 dollars per month and per user which offers hosting on a private server or cloud and reinforced security. GitHub’s French customers include Société Générale, Deezer and M6Web.

A project management tool inspired by Trello

In the future, the platform intends to diversify. In mid-September, during its annual conference Github Universe, it launched Projects, a project management tool for developers working in agile method. Like Trello or Jira, the tool organizes tasks into “done”, “in progress” and “to do” columns. After assigning these tasks to team members, the administrator moves them from one column to another as the project progresses.

GitHub also introduced Reviews, a collaborative code review service that allows you to comment on specific lines of code, approve them or request changes. And that’s not all. GitHub hints at a busy roadmap for the next few months. In particular, the provider will launch a beta version of an authentication device based on SAML Single Sign-On.

Plongeon au cœur de GitHub : le Facebook des développeurs
GitHub has added a collaborative code review service: Reviews © Capture

It must be said that the competition does not remain idle. GitHub’s most serious competitor, GitLab, also offers a kanban-style project management tool in its latest version 8.11. Developers like blogger Korben have turned away from GitHub in favor of GitLab – which has just raised $20 million – for security reasons. Atlassian’s Bitbucket is another alternative to GitHub. There are, moreover, a plethora of free solutions including Kiln, Codeplane, Gitorious or Sourceforge.


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