Should you move from GitHub to sr.ht

Published 2018-06-05 on Drew DeVault's blog

I’m not terribly concerned about Microsoft’s acquisition of GitHub, but I don’t fault those who are worried. I’ve been working on my alternative platform, sr.ht, for quite a while. I’m not about to leave GitHub because of Microsoft alone. I do have some political disagreements with GitHub and Microsoft, but those are also not the main reason that I’m building sr.ht. I simply think I can do it better. If my approach aligns with your needs, then sr.ht may be the platform for you.

There are several GitHub alternatives, but for the most part they’re basically GitHub rip-offs. Unlike GitLab, Gogs/Gitea, BitBucket; I don’t see the GitHub UX as the pinnacle of project hosting - there are many design choices (notably pull requests) which I think have lots of room for improvement. sr.ht instead embraces git more closely, for example building on top of email rather than instead of email.

GitHub optimizes for the end-user and the drive-by contributor. sr.ht optimizes for the maintainers and core contributors instead. We have patch queues and ticket queues which you can set up automated filters in or manually curate, and are reusable for projects on external platforms. You have tools which allow you to customize the views you see separately from the views visitors see, like bugzilla-style custom ticket searches. Our CI service gives you KVM virtualization and knobs you can tweak to run sophisticated automation for your project. Finally, all of it is open source.

The business model is also something I think I can do better. GitHub and GitLab are both VC-funded and trapped into appeasing their shareholders (or now, in GitHub’s case, the needs of Microsoft as a whole). I think this leads to incentives which don’t align with the users, as it’s often more important to support the bottom line than to build what the users want or need. Rather than trying to raise as much money as possible, the sr.ht aims to be more a grassroots platform. I’m still working on the money details, but each user will be expected to pay a subscription fee and growth will be artificially slowed if necessary to make sure the infrastructure can keep up. In my opinion, venture capital does not lead to healthy businesses or a healthy economy on the whole, and I think the users suffer for it. My approach is different.

As for my own projects and the plan for moving them, I don’t intend to move anything until it won’t be disruptive to the project. I’ve been collecting feedback from co-maintainers and core contributors to each of the projects I expect to move and using this feedback to drive sr.ht priorities. They will eventually move, but only when it’s ready.

I intend to open sr.ht to the public soon, once I have a billing system in place and break ground on mailing lists (among some smaller improvements). If anyone is interested in checking it out prior to the public release, shoot me an email at sir@cmpwn.com.

Have a comment on one of my posts? Start a discussion in my public inbox by sending an email to ~sircmpwn/public-inbox@lists.sr.ht [mailing list etiquette]

Are you a free software maintainer who is struggling with stress, demanding users, overwork, or any other social problems in the course of your work? Please email me — I know how you feel, and I can lend a sympathetic ear and share some veteran advice.


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