GitHub announced that it’s getting rid of some older terms used in its platform, in favor of more inclusive language.
Movements like Black Lives Matter are gaining momentum and changing perceptions of race and related concepts, and as a result, people are becoming much more conscious of charged terms and the subtle nuances of the language we use to describe the world around us. There are places where racially-charged words – or those with racial connotations – are really not expected. In programming, for example.
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Software site GitHub has now announced that it’s leaving old racially divisive language behind, switching to more politically correct terms. As explained by GitHub Chief Executive Nat Friedman in a recent Tweet, the company is changing the term “master” to “main”.
It's a great idea and we are already working on this! cc @billygriffin22
— Nat Friedman (@natfriedman) June 12, 2020
In case you are not aware, in programming, “master” is the main code version, and Google Chrome developer Una Kravets argued that “main” would be easier to remember and could help black people feel more comfortable.
Microsoft-owned Github’s move comes at a time when many companies are awakening to racial issues in their industries, but this is not entirely a new thing. According to a study into the terminology in 2018, the old “not only reflects racist culture, but also serves to reinforce, legitimize, and perpetuate it.”
Drupal switched to “primary” and “replica” from “master” and “slave” in 2014, while Python removed related references in 2018. Chromium, Google’s open-source browser project, also switched to more inclusive language recently.
Terms on the list to change are ones like “blacklist” and “whitelist,” which may become “block list” and “allow list”.
Petr Baudis, the person who chose the names “master” and “origin” in Github back in 2005 said that he wished “many times” that he had instead chosen “main” and “upstream” instead.
I picked the names "master" (and "origin") in the early Git tooling back in 2005.
(this probably means you shouldn't give much weight to my name preferences :) )
I have wished many times I would have named them "main" (and "upstream") instead.
Glad it's happenning @natfriedman
— Petr Baudis (@xpasky) June 12, 2020
GitHub users are now able to use their own terms for versions and branches of projects, but a default terminology change may have many effects.
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