Github swaps ‘master and slave’ and other terms for more inclusive language

The software site GitHub has announced that it's abandoning old language in favour for more politically correct terms.

GitHub Chief Executive Nat Friedman said on Twitter that the company is changing the term "master" to "main".

Friedman confirmed the change in a reply to to Google Chrome developer Una Kravets.

In coding, "master" code is the main version of the code, but Kravets made the argument that the new term is shorter, easier to remember, and could make black people in the technology community feel more comfortable.

The move comes as many companies are having conversations about racial issues in the industry, following the protests over the death of George Floyd.

Petr Baudis, who chose the names "master" and "origin" in early Github tooling in 2005 said that he had wished "many times" that he had chosen "main" and "upstream" instead.

Product manager for the site Maya Kaczorowski is also gauging what the security community would prefer as default terms when coding.

GitHub users can already use their preferred terms for versions and branches of projects, but it's likely that a change in default terminology would have a ripple effect.

The website, which is owned by Microsoft, hosts 50 million developers' projects.

The old language "not only reflects racist culture, but also serves to reinforce, legitimize, and perpetuate it," according to a study into the terminology in 2018.

GitHub is not the only website changing its phrasing in order to be more inclusive. Apple engineer John Wilander tweeted that he is changing terminology from "blacklist" and "whitelist" to "block list" and "allow list".

LinkedIn engineer Gabrial Csapo also said he's "in the process of opening up issues for a bunch of libraries...that employ these phrases"

Many others made changes years prior. Drupal used "primary" and "replica" in its code from 2014, instead of "master" and "slave".

The Python programming language removed such references in 2018.

Chromium, the open source browser project developed by Google, also made the change to more inclusive language.

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