From Now You Shall Be Called Main

idoshamun profile image Ido Shamun ・1 min read

The latest protests in the US engaged the tech community to remove offensive words from the software language. Some of these words include master/slave, whitelist/blacklist, and many more.
For me, the biggest change would be to change git's master branch to main, I'm so used to it...
I believe it will take time for the industry to get used to these new changes.
What do you think?


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I have no problem with the change because no matter how subtle, the vocabulary we use influences the way we think.

That being said I don't think we should fool ourselves into thinking that merely changing the name of a git branch will have any tangible effect on moving the needle towards societal equity.


I think it's a good way to show developers respect to the community. Developers are not the guys who only coding.


It sounds a bit like a white persons solution to racism.


Wasn't there a different post before that aimed to discuss this matter on DEV too? Well regardless, I'm personally fine. Though surely the affects, even if just in terms of logistics, would be quite large. Also, it should really be asked what necessitates such a change. One way to do that is of course to go back towards the people who are closest to the presumably impacted and ask their feedback and to assess the effectiveness of the move against the outcome and expectations. It's good to not want to do harm, it is another if that desire turns its head to self-righteousness.

But overall I'm fine with it, but I'm not the one most affected by the terminology.

With regards to the political nature of technology that some people have mentioned. Not all technologies carry political weight or will, but some certainly do. You can understand "politics" from various angles, but it is at the heart about the governance of things (people, places, words, thoughts etc.) and the practice of maintaining and creating policies to assist in the governance of these things.

Sometimes politics are retroactively co-opted towards a particular technology. The internet web can be seen as such with recently being more and more associated as a tool with both the ability AND the ideology of being a way to maintain and propagate free speech. That is, it is ideologically palatable for the internet to be seen as a democratizing technology among other things, and the terminologies of politics are now more and more associated with the internet. Though someone might say the internet was from the very beginning a tool with politics by virtue of being developed by the US military, an institutional government body.

At other times technology can be seen as coming to fruition WITH a political standpoint embedded within its logics and mechanisms. Blockchain would be such a modern technology. Sprouted into prominence by Bitcoin from the turmoil of the financial depression in 2008-2009, it (well Bitcoin to be exact) sought to create the traditional way monetary value was governed and handled with a different method. Its decentralized design among other things IS a political decision, deciding that centralization is a worse way to manage the financial world, both for public and personal.

I do think technical developers interact with politics all the time even within the confined discipline of tech. Documentation, styling, linting, guidelines, RFCs, GitHub PR templates are some of the things that police the behavior and conduct of developers.

So while particular technologies do not necessarily always have political will or meaning attached to it, that doesn't mean it can't or that no such political technology exists, in past, present or future.


Can we talk about tech plz, the last place that many of us want politics is in engineering, I'm afraid of having my field destroyed, you start changing the language then you want to change the rules, then you wanna to control everything and everyone....


Tech is inherently political though, you can't separate the two. You're afraid of having our field destroyed by politics, while people out there are afraid of having their life destroyed by our field.

There's so much racist, sexist, transphobic and inaccessible software out there, elections are decided on social media, and tech is being used more and more for surveillance, criminal sentencing, health care, etc. All of that is politics.


The field itself has nothing to do with politics, is a scientific field, what you're talking about is the application of the field, this is a separate discussion, plz explain to me what changing a word only for PR have to do with "the practical dev"

A few things:

Science is, and has always been, political. Read about Henrietta Lacks, read about experimentation in concentration camps, or phrenology. All of those were "just science" in their times. Tech is no different. It's political. You're just going to have to accept that.

Secondly, this site is all about discussing practical, real-world applications of engineering. That's what "practical" means in "the practical dev".

It's not just "changing a word" - it's acknowledging that people in tech might be uncomfortable with that word, even if the origin isn't from "master/slave".

Finally, let's talk about this:

I'm afraid of having my field destroyed, you start changing the language then you want to change the rules, then you wanna to control everything and everyone....

Language changes. All the time. It's a key, defining part of language. Rules change. Society changes. It's not about control. It's about how we build and adapt the system so that everyone experiences the maximum possible comfort, not just those with the most power and influence.

In addition to what's already been said, I'd recommend the following books 😊 They're really insightful when it comes to understanding how tech affects society, with examples of what has gone wrong or can go wrong.

Also articles:

Sloan, the sloth mascot Comment marked as low quality/non-constructive by the community View code of conduct

Politics is about opinions and the only reason why you're ok with this is because is in line with YOUR opinion, Imagine if catholics and conservatives started making posts in this communitity would you be ok with it ? besides you do realize that people use this PR move to gain power not only that but in this case IT"S ONLY A PR MOVE, VIRTUAL SIGNALING BULLSHIT , I rarely see any black person advocating for these changes, my grandfather was a slave, an actual slave i"m feel disgust for people(mostly white folks but others too) using our history and our suffering to gain notoriety in the community, and in this case it's only that as people already point out in the comments, I'm not gonna respond anymore because I have REAL things to do things that REALLY matter, thanks for the responses though I'm gonna read it later and I hope you guys make a effort to see and consider these points next time

Sloan, the sloth mascot Comment marked as low quality/non-constructive by the community View code of conduct

And all of your statement is whataboutism.
Everything I read the past couple of weeks about this topic is "but what about X?".
It's sickening to be frank.

Where is the inherent politics in

  • windows
  • Java
  • SMTP

All of these are considered tech, so go ahead, give it your best shot, tell me their inherent political background, I'll gladly wait.

How about you accept the fact that we are talking about engineering tools?
Let me hammer this one home, maybe it sticks this time, Tools have no political opinion, people do.

I've had this discussion quite a few times, noone had solid arguments as to why this benefits anyone.
I'm pretty sure I know what's coming next, so please, surprise me for once.

I'm not necessarily in favour of all the wild renamings, but as to the politics in all these things: they are made by people, for people. That's the politics in them: if you have people, you have politics.

That didn't answer anything I'm afraid. It's just another blanket statement.

Consider this situation.
If I make a chair for you, this chair is now political, because, as per your statement:

they are made by people, for people. That's the politics in them: if you have people, you have politics

So what's political about this chair now?

Now let's expand this situation.
I call it the "Master Chair" and carve a triforce into it as an Hommage to zelda.

It has master in it's name now. Still political? This chair is obviously not your master, so it can't be a reference to slavery, right?

Does this comparison feel stupid to you? Welcome in my shoes.

You see where I am getting at? Context. Word + Context = Meaning. If you don't know the context, you can only speculate, and that is where the madness starts. Like this topic for example.

Noone but the creator knows the context as to why something is.
Everyone else's "understood meaning" is just fabrication until proven.

My point is that if people are involved, there will be politics, because people have opinions, backgrounds and agendas which generally only partially overlap.

In that regard, a spherical chair in a vacuum will be apolitical, but an actual chair made by people for people, can very well be made from rainforest wood, by slave or sweatshop labor, be 'picked out by me on my first day so why is he now sitting in it', or e.g. be so modern/kitsch/classic/... as to abhorrent for polite company. It's silly, I know, but that's people for you. So unless you'd want to excise people from everything, politics is something you'll have accept (or rant and rate against, if that's your opinion/background/agenda).

I hope you see that point of view, even if you disagree with it. If not, I'll leave to practicing politics on your own.

You know, if you agree with me, you just have to say it. Spelling it out in different words doesn't really further the discussion.

It's silly, I know, but that's people for you.

That's people. Not chairs, nor gits, or any other tool. Technology is not political, people are.

So unless you'd want to excise people from everything, politics is something you'll have accept

No, since there is context involved and absolutely needed. Not everything "has to be accepted". Framing things as bad because of people, ends in the madness we are going through right now. Someone whines, others chime in, everyone gets on the blame-train and all of a sudden git is connected to slavery and master needs to get renamed. Queue fanfares now?

What property has changed, now that git uses a different branch name, that makes git "apolitical" now? Git is still made by people, so in your words, it still has to be political, right?
What needs to change now to make it "perfect"?

I hope you see that point of view, even if you disagree with it. If not, I'll leave to practicing politics on your own.

I try to understand, truthfully, but as of yet, there was no solid point made why this is needed. Only redirects and whataboutism. That is the pinnacle of political discussions.

I think it is fine to agree to disagree this time.


Politics everywhere. I never ever related master/slave with Slavery and whitelist/blacklist with racism. Someone with political background might have joined computer engineering :)


It's virtue signaling and nothing but a PR move.
Who is going to say "oh NOW I can finally use git"?

People that can't differentiate a tool from the act of slavery have problems that won't go away by changing a simple term around. This helps nobody, but it creates a whole slew of different problems and unnecessary amounts of work.
It's a can of worms that should've stayed closed IMO.


I've never associated the "master" branch with slavery, I wonder who ever did?

We use the "master" keyword for a lot of stuff:
Masters degree
Master Copy
Master Key

For example, If we were talking about RAID in computer storage with a "master" and "slave" terminology i would have understood the need for change.


I never did as well but I guess it may offend some people

Having an opinion offends people.
Don't base your actions on mob thinking and half truths.


This brings up a good point: "master" can mean "having command over a topic" (e.g., he/she is a "ReactJS Master") as well.

Chess: Grand Master
Jedi Master

One could infer that there is a secondary meaning that master can carry with it: "one who is really good at something".

I feel that this recent word-witch-hunting is over-simplified application of a given words' subset of definitions.