Github to Remove 'Master/Slave' Terminology From its Platform

It's a welcome but overdue move from the Microsoft-owned company, which still has contracts with ICE.
Screen Shot 2020-06-15 at 11
Image: Michael Short/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In a tweet last week, Github CEO Nat Friedman said the software development platform company is working to remove the term “master” from its services and replacing it with a more neutral term like “main.”

As first reported by ZDNet, the announcement came in response to a tweet made by developer advocate Una Kravets, who implored the Microsoft-owned Github to lead the charge in renaming the default branch structure used on its platform from “master” to “main.” In Github, “master” is used to identify the main branch of a project from which future edits and changes can be made.


“It’s a great idea and we are already working on this!” Friedman replied in a tweet.

The announcement comes as protests continue across the country in support of Black Lives Matter, and as some in the tech community have pushed for racist terminology like “slave” and “master” to be removed from software and programming languages. In programming, the terms have often been used to indicate when one process has control over another.

In 2018, Python—one of the top programming languages in the world—made the move, removing the terms “master” and “slave” from its programming language. This resulted in a debate among developers, with many agreeing that “slave” should be removed but that the term “master” was not offensive.

Reaction to Friedman’s announcement online was mixed, with several Twitter users asking that Github also stop working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Github continues to work with with ICE, which is a point of contention for many employees who want the company to end its relationship with the law enforcement agency.

Github did not respond to Motherboard’s request for comment.