github is changing the title of "master" branches

Submitted by twovests in just_post

So, there's a big issue with "master/slave" terminology in computer shit and I'm 100% for doing away with that.

But GitHub is changing the default branch from "master" to "main" and a lot of people use GitHub for git.

So, I thought I was missing something. I assumed the "master" branch referred just referred to some central branch, and that this was a wholly pointless and misguided change, but apparently it's taken from git's great grandparent bitkeeper, which does use the problematic master/slave terminology. (source: https://github.com/bitkeeper-scm/bitkeeper/blob/master/doc/HOWTO.ask#L223 )

I was wondering what y'all think? Usually I'm all on board with changing the names of things at the chagrin of Old Tech People, but even this one seems iffy to me? Even disregarding that GitHub is owned by Microsoft, I don't think I've ever heard anyone consider this an issue, even among the social justice techy side of things.

A lot of people are saying this will break their automation but I don't think GitHub's going to retroactively change the titles of branches in existing repositories, but also I don't use any automation that assumes the existence of a main branch titled "master"

So I was wondering what y'all thought here


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hollyhoppet wrote (edited )

I've seen plenty of black devs on twitter and mastodon saying they don't like the terminology so I say good stinking riddance and we can just deal with the technical debt it causes.


emma wrote

Getting rid of the master/slave dichotomy in software is worth pursuing. I can't think of any other pairs of terms with the same kind of hurtful baggage being used to describe other things in tech.

Anyway, GitHub sells services to a government agency that puts children in cages.


oakreef wrote

I've had a shortcut set up in my terminal with months to automatically change the default branch name to "main" when making a new git repo so yeah I'm in favour of this

git init; and git symbolic-ref HEAD refs/heads/main

musou wrote (edited )

this is a good change, and if there's any pigheaded reactionary programmer types complaining about it you can also point out that it's shorter and every Real Developer™ hates typing.

also SVN used "trunk" by default if i remember correctly, and that was also a better, older name that dates back to the orignal Concurrent Versions System that predates bitkeeper by quite a while.


Moonside wrote

My take is two-pronged:

  1. I think it's good to get rid of 'master' even here since using the term does connote 'slave' as its antonym in various ways throughout technology. The more peculiar 'master' becomes in computing contexts, the easier it is to forget the old habits.

  2. This shouldn't be seen as too significant either - it's a small capitulation to outside pressure, which ought to continue as the strategy is clearly working. Many things are rotten in IT and being satisfied with the crumbs is a mark of a fool.