George Floyd Killing Invokes Changes to Software Terminologies

The grave news of George Floyd’s killing has had a domino effect on the software development industry.

Microsoft has announced that its popular software repository GitHub which is home to 50 million developers has decided to rename some terminologies that are perceived to have a racial connotation.

The master and slave branches which are referred to the original copies of software code and replicas are under the hammer. The master branch is going to be referred to as main. The company is yet to reveal what slave would likely be referred to as.

The software terminologies of master and slave have existed for as long as the software industry has been around. And they don’t necessarily point to racial terminologies as master is the main copy. From the master copy, there are replicas made, which is referred to as slave. These terms don’t mean that master rules over the slave. An argument based on this could be – why change?

GitHub Chief Executive Nat Friedman made the announcement on Twitter and said, “If it prevents even a single black person from feeling more isolated in the tech community, feels like a no-brainer to me”.

He was responding to Google developer Una Kravets.

Other technologists are debating over the terms blacklists and whitelists which are used commonly with firewalls. A blacklist is referred to blocking and whitelist is referred to as allowing. The argument is these terms essentially mean that black is to be blocked or is bad, and white is good and can be allowed.

The top suggestions are blocklist and allowlist.

Google’s Android and Chromium projects have already asked its project teams to avoid using the racially sensitive terms.

It started with political neutrality a couple of decade years ago and now with George Floyd, racial equality is the norm. Our world needs incidents to change the old ways!

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