Open tech, be afraid. Be very afraid. Microsoft owns both Visual Studio Code “VSCode” and MS-GitHub, two intertwined and utterly proprietary product-service ecosystems with a bit of open-source in their core to lure us in. Because they love open source? Yeah, no.

Soon after leaving GitPod whose technology links the two, Geoffrey Hunt last year explained their strategy and what it's doing to our open tech world, in a great and “harrowing” article, “Visual Studio Code is designed to fracture” https://ghuntley.com/fracture/

“The future of software development tooling that is being built is closed as ****, and people seem to be okay with it...”

This is why MS-GitHub is not our friend.

This is why falling for their trick, disguising MS-VSCode as a neat “free” editor, will come back and haunt and hurt us.

Vendor lock-in double-whammy. Using open source as “a financial weapon”.

”... the biggest challenge for Gitpod, GitLab, Datacoves, OpenBB, Foam, et al lies ahead – developing open language tooling for each community where Microsoft has forked the communities over to proprietary language servers...”

If we have a grain of public spirit, if we are motivated at all by the Freedom that's supposed to be afforded by Free-Libre Open-Source Software, we must #GiveUpGithub, we must recognise the trap, we must choose truly open #FreedomTech.


#awesomeFOSS #selfHosted #GiveUpGithub #DitchDiscord #forgeFed #forgeFederation #ForgeJo #Codeberg


I wrote this piece in response to a particular organisation that empowers local people to create tech solutions matching community values, on hearing they chose to use Discord because of its “usability”.

I was dismayed. To me, the choice embodies the opposite of the organisation's values.

“Discord is great for enabling our community,” people tend to say: it's “free”, and it's great to use, once you're inside. I know. Those are some more-or-less correct facts about it, on the surface.

So what's my beef with it? Why am I so upset that I spend hours writing this? Why can't I just see the value in it, see the pragmatic decision, see that using it benefits the community's work, and be happy for us all?

I nearly replied on the spot, a quick denigration of the decision, but I realised it deserves a much more detailed and balanced response. I think about this stuff all the time. I should be able to express my position clearly and helpfully.

My immediate reaction: I'm so fed up with seeing one supposedly public-values project after another locking itself in to yet another walled garden. I'm fed up with one supposedly open-participation community after another assuming I'm willing to subject myself to yet another Big Tech walled garden if I want to engage. There's a reason I ditched Google and the rest: because I care about using open tech, community-values tech. I care about not being forced into using and depending on a third party against my will, especially when that's a company working in opposition to my values.

You, the community organisers, will certainly have thought of this, I soon realised, and I suppose you decided you need to prioritise a higher level kind of community tech: getting people to work together to create something their community owns, even if they don't own the tools for doing so. That's the main goal of your work and I respect and admire your endeavour. Of course you have to focus on that, and make it possible for your contributors to focus on that.

First, I'll unpack why I'm dismayed. Second, how to keep the gate open (by bridging), as a practical and community-valued way forward if one portion of the community is going to be using Discord.


Where does your project live? Where do people find it? Who controls how people access your project's resources on the Internet?


Github the Mega-Mall

See also: Open Tech, Be Very Afraid

In practice, what do ninety-something percent of small FOSS projects do? They sign up on Microsoft Github. If we are one of these, then we feel our little project has a home on the Internet, its own address: https://github.com/our-name/our-repo. Oops, but did I say an address of its own? Well, there's the catch. I meant an address of Microsoft's own.

Github is a Gatekeeper. Every link to our project now takes the reader through a virtual gateway owned and ruled by Github's owner, Microsoft. The domain name is the gate, and its owner holds the key. Want to visit the source code? Before we reach our-name/our-repo we must walk through their gate at github.com. We must pass through whatever they put in the gateway. Ads? Nagging to sign up? Then they will let us visit the source code that we feel is “ours”.


Software is a process, and whoever controls it ultimately decides what the developers can do and how they communicate.

The elephant in the room is Microsoft. Open tech, be afraid. Be very afraid. Microsoft owns both VSCode and MS-GitHub, two intertwined and utterly proprietary product-service ecosystems with a bit of open-source in their core to lure us in.

Have the Freenode sell-out (2021) and the Twitter fiasco (2022) taught us nothing?

FOSS thrives in FOSS ecosystems.

In their “State of the Forge Federation” newsletter, ForgeFriends said it best:


Don't lock a FOSS Android app in Google's proprietary store!

Many of us are looking to FOSS solutions in order to keep our digital lives under our own control. We don't accept that any Big Tech company should hold the keys to a vast swathe of our digital life.