If you’ve spent any amount of time in the web development world or lifted the lid on the code behind your own or someone else’s website, you will at some point have encountered a site called GitHub. GitHub is the home of millions of open source code repositories that are in constant flux and evolution, and GitHub is where you will find the bleeding edge of innovation when it comes to code on the web.
The challenge with GitHub, at least for Windows users (so the majority of the computer literate population) is that there has never been a good Windows-based interface for GitHub. As a result, Windows users have been relegated to using GitBash or another command line based interface. And though this isn’t a solid non-starter, it is rather intimidating and hard to wrap your head around if you’re not used to using command line.
Those days are gone. Yesterday GitHub released GitHub for Windows at http://windows.github.com/: A graphical user interface (GUI) that allows you to manage your GitHub repositories with ease using familiar point-and-click behaviors. And it’s designed with Metro principles to boot. Though this may seem like a small deal for Git affiliations and Mac Dogmatics it is in fact a groundbreaking very big deal. And here’s why:
The Democratization of Code
As I alluded to earlier, previous Windows solutions related to GitHub have been command line based and therefore unapproachable to say the least. And in today’s world, that is a serious problem. Though people like me who grew up in the dark ages of computing with MS-DOS as our operating system, the modern computer user is not familiar with command line and finds it hard and cumbersome to use. As a result, services like GitHub have been relegated to the selected few who have the skills to user command line or use other operating systems. In other words, GitHub has been the domain of the coding elite.
Because the web runs on code, and code has been relatively hard to learn and understand, it has been the purview of a select group of people who can read, write, and understand code. But in the last several years this bar has been lowered substantially by the introduction of rock solid Content Management Systems like WordPress and user interfaces that make it easier to use and understand what happens behind the scenes. The result of this democratization of code is that now anyone with a computer and an internet connection can publish and customize their own websites and take control of their message online. That is the very definition of a revolution.
In the past several weeks there has raged a debate in the development community over an initiative called “Code Year” which claims that the ability to code is so vital to the modern world that everyone should learn how to code. The (not so) surprising thing about the debate is that the detractors by and large argue that “regular people” don’t have the ability to learn how to code. In other words, the elite is afraid that their pedestals will shrink and they will be brought down to the level of everyone else.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I sit firmly on the other end of that argument: Not only do I believe that everyone should learn how to code; I believe that everyone can learn how to code and be good at it too.
GitHub for Windows (again)
Which brings me back to GitHub for Windows. The reason I am so excited about this release is not that it makes it easier for Windows users to use GitHub but instead that it makes GitHub available to all Windows users regardless of skill level. That is an important distinction and one that will be felt almost immediately in the GitHub community. What was once the purview of the coding elite has suddenly become the playground of anyone with an aspiration to use, collaborate, or publish their own pieces of code.
Revolutions usually start with a single spark. I believe this is one of them. Go download GitHub for Windows and be part of it.