Why we run an open source program - GitHub

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts from TODO Group members, explaining why each company is committed to open source software. This week, we feature Brandon Keepers (@bkeepers), who is heading up the open source efforts at GitHub.

From the very beginning, GitHub has been about open source. Scratching the itch of better code collaboration turned into a company built on and for open source; from the philosophies that founded the company, to the servers running the infrastructure, to the languages and libraries we use to build applications, to the millions of public repositories hosted on them. Even our business model - based on the premise that you shouldn’t have to pay if you share - encourages open source.

We support open source because we believe it is the best model for creating software. Employing reusable open source components forces you to construct modular and scalable systems. The healthiest parts of our infrastructure depend heavily on open source technology. For example, having dedicated people contributing to Git means we have the freedom to add features and share our improvements with the community. As we push the boundaries of what is possible with Git, our enhancements are tested in production on GitHub before we push them to the upstream project for the benefit of the rest of the community. We can create better tools by building on open source systems and being actively engaged with the community.

We want to build the best platform for collaborating on software. There are subtle and important differences in the way we work together to build closed source products versus maintaining open source projects. We use GitHub to build GitHub, which gives us insight into how to shape our product to suit the ever-growing teams and codebases of our customers. Actively participating in open source means we also experience GitHub the same way the rest of the community does.

Like other members of the TODO Group, we believe companies have just as much to learn from open source as the community has to benefit from the support of these businesses. As Kim Polese says in Open Sources 2.0, “open source has grown far beyond the mainstream. It has become the bedrock over which the mainstream flows.” We celebrate the notion that nobody has to build their own bedrock any more. This is just the beginning. Open source will continue to significantly alter what is possible as we share our knowledge in the form of free software.

Building the most popular platform for collaborating on open source puts GitHub in a unique position, and we take our responsibility to the community seriously. We participate in open source because it’s who we are, and we want to help everyone become a contributor.