Mike Gerwitz

Free Software Hacker+Activist

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-### GitHubbub! GitHub Does Not Value Software Freedom.
-
-<div class="inline-img octoflop">
- ![GitHub](/images/octoright-large.png "GitHub logo rotated 270° to resemble a Copyright symbol")
-</div>
-
-If you hit this page expecting to have been taken to my GitHub profile,
- then this is probably not what you were looking for;
- but let me tell you why you're here.
-
-Before providing a link to something hosted on a service,
- it is important to consider whether the service or website is antithetical
- to the message you are trying to convey to your readers/visitors,
- and whether it deserves clarification;
- there's a little bit of both here.
-
-If you're looking for a host friendly toward free software,
- take a look at the [GNU ethical repository criteria][gnu-repo],
- which sets standards for acceptable hosts to parts of the
- [GNU operating system][gnu].
-
-
-#### Non-Free JavaScript
-[Free software][freesw] guarantees your freedom to study,
- modify,
- and share the software that you use.
-We value these freedoms on the desktop,
- so why should we compromise when websites serve proprietary JavaScript
- [just because it creates the illusion of remote execution][whyfreejs]?
-When you visit a website that serves JavaScript to the client,
- your web browser is automatically [downloading and executing][jstrap]
- (often without your permission) ephemeral, unsigned, untrusted software.
-If that JavaScript is not [freely licensed][librejs],
- then the software running in your web browser is proprietary.
-
-**When you visit `github.com`,
- you download over 200kB of obfuscated code,
- much of which is proprietary.**
-This code provides many website features that are fairly essential,
- and *do not work with JavaScript disabled*:
-
-- Change repository names or descriptions;
-- Delete repositories;
-- Add an SSH key to your account;
-- Fork repositories;
-- Create pull requests;
-- Enable and disable project features;
-- Use the wiki and issue trackers;
-- View graphs of statistics;
-- And others.
-
-That is---GitHub forces you to run proprietary software in order to use much
- of their website.
-This is a bit startling for a host that owes its very existence to the
- success and development of free software.
-
-#### Desire To Remain Non-Free
-I contacted GitHub back in April 2014 pointing out these concerns and
- asking if they would be able to either liberate their JavaScript or make
- GitHub's essential functionality work without JavaScript enabled.
-The first response I received was from one of their "JavaScript Developers":
-
-> Hi Mike,
->
-> Thanks for getting in touch with us here. Some of our internal projects are
-> specific to running GitHub, and as such will probably remain closed. We do
-> make an effort to open source projects that we create that we think would be
-> beneficial to the community, some of which is JavaScript.
->
-> You can see a list of some of the open source projects that power GitHub
-> here:
->
-> https://github.com/showcases/projects-that-power-github
-
-This response is unfortunately misguided---yes,
- it is good that GitHub produces free software,
- but it is a false assumption that their proprietary code would serve no
- benefit to the community:
- the very existence of their proprietary software [gives them unjust
- control over their users][unjust];
- relinquishing that control is of benefit to the community.
-
-I replied to the above message to clarify my point.
-After receiving no response,
- I forwarded the e-mail to GitHub's original founders:
- [Tom Preston-Werner][tom],
- [Chris Wanstrath][chris],
- and [PJ Hyett][pj].
-The response I received from Chris was blunt and discouraging:
-
-> Hey Mike,
->
-> We have no plans to release github.com's JavaScript as free software at
-> this time, nor do we have plans to remove the site's dependence on
-> JavaScript. Thanks for the interest.
-
-The original correspondence is provided here:
-
-1. [Original request][gh-request] to `support@github.com`, Tom, Chris, and
- PJ.
-2. [Reply to my original request][gh-request-reply] from one of the developers.
-3. [My reply to the developer][gh-request2] providing more information and
- asking for a commitment.
-4. [Forward of my reply][gh-request3] to Tom, Chris, and PJ, after having
- received no response from the developer.
-5. [Response from Chris Wanstrath][gh-request3-reply] stating that GitHub
- has "no plans" to liberate its JavaScript or "remove the site's
- dependence on JavaScript".
-
-
-[gnu-repo]: https://www.gnu.org/software/repo-criteria.html
-[gnu]: https://www.gnu.org/gnu/gnu.html
-[freesw]: https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html
-[whyfreejs]: https://www.gnu.org/software/easejs/whyfreejs.html
-[jstrap]: https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/javascript-trap.html
-[librejs]: https://www.gnu.org/software/librejs/free-your-javascript.html
-[unjust]: https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-software-even-more-important.html
-[tom]: https://github.com/mojombo
-[chris]: https://github.com/defunkt
-[pj]: https://github.com/pjhyett
-
-[gh-request]: /docs/gh/email-request.txt
-[gh-request-reply]: /docs/gh/email-request-reply.txt
-[gh-request2]: /docs/gh/email-request2.txt
-[gh-request3]: /docs/gh/email-request3.txt
-[gh-request3-reply]: /docs/gh/email-request3-reply.txt