Why Decentralization Matters

So the news over the weekend is that Microsoft is buying GitHub. Many companies and developers are thinking “do I want my source code hosted on a service owned by Microsoft?”

Fortunately, the protocol that GitHub is built on, Git, is open source and there are other Git hosts, like GitLab.

There are also a number of proprietary Git solutions offered by companies like Atlassian and BitBucket.

Moving your source code repositories from GitHub to GitLab or somewhere else is not a simple thing, but it can be done. Kind of like moving your email from Outlook to Gmail.

Lock-in is a bitch. And everyone who has ever been locked into a shitty piece of software over the years knows, there is often no easy way out.

Software built on decentralized protocols offers a different and better way. You can move your data out if you don’t like where things are going. And that is what some developers are doing right now with GitHub.

#VC & Technology#Web/Tech

Comments (Archived):

    1. PhilipSugar

      It always amazes me to go into inter-connects. You go into a Level 3, you go into the 12th floor of 401N Broad. You think this is where everything connects??? Just a guy like this running……notice no people.

  1. Mike Zamansky

    There’s an “import from GitHub” option in GitLab when creating a project. I think there might also be one in BitBucket.

  2. JimHirshfield

    GitOuttaHere, new service for porting code…cuz, lock-in’s a bitch™

    1. Twain Twain

      LOL, suggest it’s GitOuttaHere™.

  3. kidmercury

    Centralization is simply moving from the application layer to the protocol layer, but it is still present. Moreover, ecosystems that will centralize at the protocol layer will build their moat via tightly integrated applications. So ultimately things won’t be too different.One major difference is that block chain technology will enable greater scalability. So perhaps it ends in being even more centralized in a way.

  4. JamesHRH

    Don’t be Microsoft’s.Don’t be Google’s.Don’t be Amazon’s.Don’t be Microsoft’s again is interesting.I doubt this messes up GitHub.

    1. Lawrence Brass

      It doesn’t messes up GitHub really, it just makes it uncool.That is a feature.

  5. William Mougayar

    Well, Microsoft wants to push/integrate Azure into Github, and that’s more irking to some developers than other considerations.The challenge with moving elsewhere is that the network effects aren’t as strong initially, and that’s a general challenge for decentralized apps.

    1. Randall Tinfow

      Azure offered us substantial credits to start working on their platform. Our developers took 10 minutes, saw that the documentation was entirely based on a Microsoft workflow using Visual Studio, and said, “We’re not doing that! Let them keep their $$$!”In my opinion Nadella is doing a decent job. It’s very hard, however, to refresh a culture of arrogance.

      1. William Mougayar

        Yup. They’ve been offering these carrots for a while, as that’s how they are attracting users/developers.

        1. PhilipSugar

          And a really good product.

      2. avip

        FUD. Facts are azure is great. Great api, great pricing, great docs. az is as cross-platform as awscli or gcloud. sdk exist for python go and node. Terraform examples exist down to Kubernetes level. Your story makes zero sense.

        1. Randall Tinfow

          All you say is true. However many developers recoil at anything labelled MS.I carry that aversion, too. Goes back to the product manager for Windows Media Mobile telling me that users wanted to see the MS logo filling the screen on video pauses rather than content. I shredded two MSDN subscriptions that day.

          1. PhilipSugar

            If you don’t encounter one person for a big company you don’t like, they just aren’t a big company. I say the same thing about Yelp. You see 100 5 star reviews and then there is that one person that just rants, and rants and gives a 1 star. You know they have enough customers, to have encountered somebody who had a bad experience (or more likely is crazy)

    2. jason wright

      ‘elsewhere’ seems like an opportunity.

  6. CB

    Here’s a question I’ve been grappling with lately: is the overhead of decentralization really needed? Or is it just “open” that we want and we’re consfusing the need for decentralization with the need for openness? One could argue that in this case the mission is achieved (albeit with some pain); alternative solutions can be built on Git enabling data portability, we didn’t need decentralization (i.e. censorship resistance or a token incentive structure for that). Thoughts?

  7. Matt Zagaja

    Git is a decentralized protocol and moving to another service is as simple as adding another remote to your local repo and pushing it. The lock-in is going to come from folks that use GitHub Issues, Pull Requests, etc. that are provided on top of the repo in the GitHub web interface. That being said I for one welcome my new overlords.

  8. _miki_1774

    Speaking about lock-in, I need a way out of Evernote. I wish moving was as easy as switching from GitHub to GitLab.

    1. jason wright

      Forevernote. You have been acquired. Cunning fuckers, aren’t they?

      1. _miki_1774

        Not sure if you are serious or just being sarcastic, as there is actually an app called ForeverNote that basically mimics Evernote’s UI.

        1. jason wright

          i’m being pithy about the true nature of these platforms. they lure users in and then spring the trap. it’s pernicious, subtle, but pernicious.

  9. Randall Tinfow

    The real value of GitHub is that every software engineer and their managers has an account. That makes access easy and facilitates easy sharing. Github makes it transparent to us whether a team contributor is in Croatia, Nigeria, or down the block. As much as I detest Microsoft, Github will continue this key role, much as Skype (another MS product) is still used globally for communication.The one notable exception is China, which sporadically blocks Github access. That barrier has put Chinese developers outside the mainstream development workflow, costing China billions of dollars in outsourcing revenue.

  10. Pointsandfigures

    Want to start an argument among engineers? Ask if they like building in Microsoft or Open Source.

    1. Ryan Frew

      Which is why I love that you can develop on Linux in Azure now. Just tempting the Open Source crowd to go against everything they believe in :p

  11. Frank W. Miller

    With respect, what a self-serving knee jerk reaction. The vast majority of code bases on github are open source so it doesn’t matter who owns the hosting. Moving code from one git server to another is trivial so I’m not sure why you think its hard to do. The jump from Microsoft making an acquisition to full decentralization as a “solution” to that “problem” is quite a leap and obviously motivated by your blockchain blinders.

    1. Frank W. Miller

      Wow, I just saw how much they paid. $7.5 Billion for a git repo hosting site? I don’t think there is anything to say about that except its just plain stupid. How would M$ possibly expect to get any kind of return on that? Its a website that hosts git repos! Consider that wrt to your post about Valuations the other day…

      1. avip

        github is “a website that hosts git repos” exactly as linkedin is “a website that hosts resumes”. They bought it for the community, which is ~98% of developers worldwide.

      2. steve cheney

        You just lost all credibility with this comment. i.e. your nested comment confirmed the parent comment to be completely asinine.

  12. OurielOhayon

    i fail to understand the problem with hosting code in a service owner by Microsoft?

  13. Josh Burwick

    fyi Bitbucket is Atlassian’s git product, it’s not a separate company. Nadella making a bold move, get developers early and then makes an easier path to Azure over AWS. Wonder if Atlassian will be in play for Jira and Bitbucket as a response by Google or AWS to lure devs.

    1. Vasudev Ram

      >fyi Bitbucket is Atlassian’s git product, it’s not a separate company.True about Bitbucket being a product, not a company, but Bitbucket supports not only git, it also supports hg (Mercurial), another version control system, which is less well-known / popular than git, but still a a decent one, and simpler to use, some think. (hg is written in Python, FWIW.)

  14. LIAD

    1.MSFT seem to make smart consumer acquisitions but squander them.Skype for $8.5bn in 2011 – wasted. Why will Github be any different.2.Whilst data lock-in is a much pressed-on shortcoming of centralised services and a rallying call for decentralisation, I’m sure in the medium-term sufficient friction will be found to make decentralised options equally hard to transfer between. Staking/master-nodes/transactions fees somehow will be used to create a trojan-horse lock-in.

    1. PhilipSugar

      Ummm Microsoft Skype for business……I can tell you not wasted. Skype was not for consumers. Yes, I do spend money on Skype to call internationally to other land numbers on my phone.Microsoft has done an incredible job under Nadella of transforming. The are the perfect “cheapium” model. For consumers and small businesses they are not free but cheap enough that you don’t care. For big businesses the are a premium. I never thought they could transform Office to Office360.You can argue but Azure is neck and neck with AWS: https://www.zdnet.com/artic…I think there is a ton of paranoia about Microsoft by “hip” developers.Fact is that you always want your inputs to be free. I mean GM wants gas to be as cheap as possible for its line up of big trucks.But as we see there is a downside to free. And that is that you now are the product. I can tell you as a big software company we are happy about this acquisition.

      1. LE

        You can argue but Azure is neck and neck with AWS: https://www.zdnet.com/artic…Wow I am blown away by that. Also I see they have lowered the entry price from what it was last time that I looked.Separately though if you look long term into the prospects the newly hatched don’t have the same bias as older developers against Microsoft. They don’t think the same of Bill Gates. They don’t remember how much Windows sucked. Sure new people going into tech hear and read things but they don’t have the same seat of the pants fear and dislike based on the past. [1] This behavioral effect is really important to understand and consider.[1] You spoke the other day about missing it about airbnb. I felt the same way. We didn’t consider that younger people don’t have the baggage that we do and aren’t anywhere near as protective as a result of the way they were raised and how they view material objects. Another example of this is how younger people feel about OJ Simpson vs. people who watched the video in real time and followed the trial in the 90’s.

        1. Ryan Frew

          A lot of people I know are blown away by the fact that Microsoft is quietly gaining ground on the likes of AWS and Salesforce. That said, the company has also doubled in value in the last two years, which somehow doesn’t seem to be getting a ton of attention, either.

          1. Donna Brewington White

            Microsoft is quietly gaining ground on the likes of AWS and SalesforceThat is surprising.A lot of good insights added to this discussion. Thanks, Ryan.

          2. PhilipSugar

            Not really, Microsoft is the ultimate grinder. Yes many “hip” developers think software should be free. I always point out that they can work for free too. When you are young that sounds cool and on side projects maybe you don’t care. But when you pay for a family……well, I’ve never had somebody tell me I pay them too little.Frankly a customer doesn’t really care. Yes, you have some desk jockey’s that say you don’t use this stack??? Oh I can’t use you, but they really are like the Wizard of Oz. No user really cares.Now Steve Jobs was smart in that he said I don’t care about the Enterprise, they just cause suckage, and they do. They get one “feature” that they have to have. Have to have it!!!! Problem is their users hate it.

          3. Donna Brewington White

            Yeah, after posting that comment I remembered that a lot of my frame of reference is from clients who are more AWS focused. For instance, did a head of infrastructure search for a client migrating to AWS and so I spoke to dozens (into the 100s) of AWS aficionados all over the U.S.Also, in the moment, had forgotten a conversation with Tereza who works with MSFT and shared some of the creative things they are doing to push Azure.Thanks for pushing back, Phil.

          4. PhilipSugar

            Not really pushing back, you will always see this. I heard many times: MS-SQL Server is not a real database. Oracle is the only real one, or SQL databases are dead you need Mongo. Same for cloud, same for languages.I’m not sure where this really comes from in tech. Maybe because it is hard for people that don’t use the products every day interchangeably to compare.Let me give a low tech example. I just replaced my countertops with blue pearl granite from Norway. Now the old countertops were Formica, which was the right choice when my kids were young.But the countertop company could make me manufactured quartz, concrete, soapstone, regular granite, or mine. They all have a use.Now from a recruitment point of view some will argue it doesn’t matter it the difference is like painting a house blue or brown. But that is not right either, it does because people are paying to not have to teach People are paying to have people up the learning curve of the stack they use, and I get that. I go to a mechanic for my old Chevy Truck (her name is Sue Carpenter, BTW) and she really doesn’t work on Fords but will. She won’t say the suck, just that she knows her way around Chevy’s.Somehow in tech we always have a religious battle.

      2. Ryan Frew

        I think you’re right about ‘Hip’ developers being skeptical of MSFT, and I think it’s going to change when they inevitably realize that there’s way more reasons to be skeptical of AMZN.

    2. Ryan Frew

      “MSFT seem to make smart consumer acquisitions but squander them”First of all, Skype is a mediocre example when Nokia is an option ;). One of the most effectively squandered acquisitions ever. That said, MSFT has acquired loads of companies and their success varies all over the board: Some examples that come to mind:Successful: Visio, Bungie, Hotmail, Great PlanesMiddling: Skype, FieldOne Systems, YammerFail: Nokia, Parature, Danger, aQuantive (There’s a Ballmer pattern here)In recent terms, I feel great about LinkedIn, okay about Git, ‘meh’ about Xamarin, and kind of confused by Mojang. Mostly, I feel good about Satya Nadella.Full disclosure: I work for Microsoft

      1. PhilipSugar

        You are right….Nokia…..complete fail.

      2. jason wright

        would you say anything different if you were using a pseudonym?

        1. Ryan Frew

          No way. When I interviewed two years ago, I provided a demo using my Mac and iPhone, because “no one uses Window phones and mirroring an iPhone is most stable on a Mac”. I can’t, in good faith, afford myself the luxury of boasting about the company’s accomplishments without being honest about our weaknesses and failures.

  15. Ben Longstaff

    There was a comment at Token Summit about KittyHats along the lines of”you own the cat but the cat owns the hat, so when you sell the cat it takes the hat”which i thought was really interesting for two reasons;- Anyone can build their custom view on top of another public dataset without permission- Digital assets can now own things in a meaningful way, like you could give the cat an Ethereum wallet which has the private key accessible only via MPC with something like Keep Network or Enigma and only have the private key accessible on a full moon for use in a smart contract to buy more digital bling.

  16. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:Is there another press release view we are not hearing?—-Microsoft is the top contributor to the site, and has more than 1,000 employees actively pushing code to repositories on GitHub. GitHub was last valued at $2 billion in 2015, and it had raised approximately $350 million from investors including Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Thrive Capital, IVP, and SV Angel.Captain Obvious!#UNEQUIVOCALLYUNAPOLOGETICALLYINDEPENDENT

  17. LE

    Many companies and developers are thinking “do I want my source code hosted on a service owned by Microsoft?”Right it’s like being held by the Chinese, sure. Even Apple during the ‘arch enemy of IBM phase’ used IBM branded drives in Apple Computers. Attached image (from ebay easier than shooting my own drives laying around).I am not a Microsoft fan in any way [1]. But I think it’s ridiculous to rush and switch to another service. You don’t want surgery w/o a compelling reason and hypothetical future event is not a compelling reason. And no Microsoft isn’t going to read your code (saw that come up on whiny hacker news). [2] I think they will do well with this despite the minor number of people that say they will switch out (let’s see if they even do it could just be bluster).[1] For many reasons but mainly because they produced inferior products and legitimized operating that way in an industry that previously had paid attention to details and post DOS ended up foisting aggravation on the users by turning out substandard products.[2] People get wacky, irrational and over-react to corner cases and preventing them. My wife told me the other day about a mother that wouldn’t allow her daughter to be picked up by a dad, it had to be a mom when doing driving duty for kids…. https://uploads.disquscdn.c

  18. moeadham

    Switching to bitbucket is incredibly simple. On a base level, no GIT repo has lock in.“`git remote add bitbucket https://bitbucket.org/usern…git push bitbucket master“`The real pain is if you use Travis or other CI tools. Then, it gets pretty hairy.

  19. David Semeria

    I don’t think you could get any *more* decentralized than git, that’s the whole point of it – no central repository. If anything, git demonstrates that blockchain is not the only way to achieve decentralization..

  20. See, "The Dentist Office"

    This blog used to be excellent. Now it is medicore.Here is how Fred explained a similar concept when he was “on top of his game.”The Dentist Office Software Storyhttps://avc.com/2014/07/the…

    1. Ryan Frew

      I don’t agree that this blog is mediocre, but the Dentist Office Story is funny to look back on today, given Albert’s alternative “Hoff Reidman” ending, and that LinkedIn actually sold to Microsoft exactly two years after the linked post.

    2. fredwilson

      yes, that was a great one.

  21. LaVonne Reimer

    I was going to go all snarky about how no females commented and the meaning of that but then I saw Donna weighed in down below! The bigger issue here is the meaning of decentralization. At least this post acknowledges that blockchain doesn’t have lock in on the term. But, this acquisition highlights some of the challenges of building and maintaining decentralized constructs. There is something valiant and revolutionary about holding onto the myth of ownership of, by, and for the people. In this case, enormous rounds of funding already effectively brought overlords into the mix. And then there was that nasty matter of high burn rates. Don’t you just hate it when practical business problems get in the way of valiant revolutionaries?

  22. jason wright