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Github to Remove 'Master' and 'Slave' Coding Terms Widely Seen as Racially Insensitive

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Github is preparing to overhaul coding terminology that has long been criticized for being racially insensitive, the company’s chief executive said.

Github, the Microsoft-owned developer platform, is working on implementing language that moves away from long-used “master” and “slave” terms, the programming language that refers to the dominant relationship between processes. Google Chrome developer Una Kravets on Friday tweeted support for switching to more inclusive terms like “main,” specifically requesting Github lead the effort “by implementing in their product moving forward.”


Responding to that tweet, Github chief Nat Friedman called the initiative “a great idea” and said the company was “already working on this.” A Github spokesperson confirmed the changes in a statement to Gizmodo.

We are actively working alongside the Git project itself, as well as other version control vendors, on making three changes in GitHub: (1) we are changing the default branch name for new repos away from ‘master’ (2) we are making it easy for users to choose their own default branch name for all new repos created (3) we are releasing guidance and tools for users who may choose to rename their default branch in existing repos,” the spokesperson said.


The apparent overhaul of Github terminology comes amid nationwide protests calling for an end to systemic racism and police brutality following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, last month. In response, respective Silicon Valley companies have moved to implement initiatives supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. The use of these terms has long been criticized, and Github will hardly be the first platform to replace them with terms that are far less offensive.

Github is not the only platform that says it’s working on the change, either. When tagged on the thread, Gitlab said its team too was “working on a first iteration of this, and currently looking into letting users choose their own default branch name.”

Added comment from Github.