[PLEASE NOTE: THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN UPDATED SINCE ITS ORIGINAL PUBLICATION]
The Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) has declared that they're no longer going to host assets using GitHub. This move comes in response to GitHub Co-Pilot - which is an AI driven, code completion project - funded by Microsoft along with a few other key players from the tech industry.
The SFC, we understand, is encouraging developers to stop using GitHub. Since Trongate is hosted on GitHub, we felt it might be worth offering a comment on this matter.
Many developers who stumbled upon this breaking news story, this weekend, would almost certainly have assumed that the SFC's decision has something to do concerns about AI potentially taking over web development jobs. This is a concern that some developers appear to have, following the release of GitHub Copilot. However, it turns out that the SFC's decision is - in fact - driven by concerns about open source intellectual property being used for commercial purposes.
This is an area that has all the hallmarks of a legal minefield and whether or not the SFC's concerns are valid is a matter for legal experts to determine. What might weaken the SFC's position is the fact that GitHub is currently owned by Microsoft. For better or for worse, this could potentially mean that - if push comes to shove - Microsoft has an opportunity to simply change the terms and conditions for using GitHub.
From a Trongate perspective, the appeal that has been made by the Software Freedom Conservancy (to abandon GitHub) has the potential to be something of a dilemma. That's because, since day one, Trongate has been on a mission to produce a top ten PHP framework that gives the PHP community a credible alternative to Packagist. At the moment, GitHub stars are the metric by which the success of frameworks get measured. It's not a perfect system by a long shot but it's all we have.
If Trongate abandons GitHub then we lose the metric by which the success of our framework gets measured. This happens at a time when we've been pushing GitHub stars quite firmly and - as of late - have began to see some traction. Frankly, we think that Trongate is well on the way to becoming a top ten PHP framework. The idea of spoiling the party at this stage would leave some of us feeling slightly directionless.
On a slightly more technical note, it's a challenge to see how a tiny part of an overall application - such as a function - could possibly be subjected to any kind of copyright ownership - particularly if it has been hosted on a public-facing website like GitHub. If software applications (or web applications) were musical arrangements then tiny snippets of code, such as functions, could be thought of as being like musical notes. The idea of holding ownership of a musical note - such as an F sharp - seems absurd. Of course, just to state the obvious, tiny snippets of code are almost certainly devoid of monetary value unless they appear within the totality of an overall application or feature. Since GitHub Copilot renders tiny code snippets - and not entire features or applications - it's a challenge to see how GitHub Copilot poses a real threat to any developer's intellectual property.
Moreover, if a good alternative to GitHub is currently available then - unfortunately - most of us don't know what that alternative is! The SFC have failed to recommend a clear and credible GitHub alternative. Above all, it should be stressed that Microsoft owes Trongate nothing. They host the Trongate framework for free and we're grateful.
Originally, there was a version of this article that offered a more neutral perspective. Unfortunately, having looked at some of the material being published by the SFC there is - unfortunately - a stench of cancel culture in the air. Trongate is non-political and it should not be used as a tool for promoting radical politics dressed up as legitimate ethical concerns. For these reasons Trongate will continue to use GitHub.