the single most important criteria when replacing Github

I could write a lot of things about the Github acquisition by Microsoft. About Github's embrace and extend of git, and how it passed unnoticed by people who now fear the same thing now that Microsoft is in the picture. About the stultifying effects of Github's centralization, and its retardant effect on general innovation in spaces around git and software development infrastructure.

Instead I'd rather highlight one simple criteria you can consider when you are evaluating any git hosting service, whether it's Gitlab or something self-hosted, or federated, or P2P[1], or whatever:

Consider all the data that's used to provide the value-added features on top of git. Issue tracking, wikis, notes in commits, lists of forks, pull requests, access controls, hooks, other configuration, etc.
Is that data stored in a git repository?

Github avoids doing that and there's a good reason why: By keeping this data in their own database, they lock you into the service. Consider if Github issues had been stored in a git repository next to the code. Anyone could quickly and easily clone the issue data, consume it, write alternative issue tracking interfaces, which then start accepting git pushes of issue updates and syncing all around. That would have quickly became the de-facto distributed issue tracking data format.

Instead, Github stuck it in a database, with a rate-limited API, and while this probably had as much to do with expediency, and a certain centralized mindset, as intentional lock-in at first, it's now become such good lock-in that Microsoft felt Github was worth $7 billion.

So, if whatever thing you're looking at instead of Github doesn't do this, it's at worst hoping to emulate that, or at best it's neglecting an opportunity to get us out of the trap we now find ourselves in.


[1] Although in the case of a P2P system which uses a distributed data structure, that can have many of the same benefits as using git. So, git-ssb, which stores issues etc as ssb messages, is just as good, for example.

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