Microsoft proved itself to be a potential threat to the future of cryptocurrencies and bitcoin. The American software behemoth has been censoring the development of open-source software on Github. This has serious implications for blockchain development projects, including Bitcoin.
The link between protests and Bitcoin
Protests all around the world against governments have been hitting the news, from Hong Kong to South America and from Iraq to Catalonia. These protests also touched the fields of privacy and blockchain technology. For example, protesters used Telegram to keep their conversations and identity private. It’s important for people to keep control and access to information, and this is not always possible when software gets blocked by governments.
The American software behemoth censored the development of an open-source application on software hosting platform Github. By request of a Spanish court they removed Tsunami Democràtic, an Android application developed to organize non-violent protests.
This block set off some alarm bells across the crypto community. However, there’s one thing that might have a bigger impact on the crypto, bitcoin and blockchain space: Microsoft itself. Is it possible that Microsoft is a threat and will block bitcoin from Github? Yes.
Ever since Microsoft bought Github for 7.5 billion dollars in June 2018 there have been multiple cases of censorship. For example, developers from Iran, Syria and Crimea have been blocked from the platform. At the same time Microsoft is installed on over 79% of all desktop computers worldwide.
Spain just sent one court order, and Microsoft blocked the project from its platform. It was that easy. Instead of being the open-source platform we all want it to be, Github has become ‘a slave of the system’. Developers can use a VPN to access Github, if that’s really needed. However, Microsoft is now making things more difficult from the inside; denying access by blocking and removing a project.
Github could block Bitcoin developers
Bitcoin advocate Andreas Antonopoulos is one of the people who made a statement against the threat of Microsoft. He called it a shame that Microsoft is already destroying the Github culture, just one year after it took over ownership. In addition he even made a jump to Bitcoin. “[I] wouldn’t be surprised if Github de-platformed Bitcoin devs at some point”, Antonopoulos said on Twitter.
However, Antonopoulos also emphasized that all development on Github uses the decentralized Git protocol. Even though Microsoft can remove easy access to a certain project, the tools are still there. The problem is that Github is the easiest way to access these tools, and needs to be used to add new code. It’s an inconvenience for developers to regain access.
At the same time Github is hiding behind governments and the law. In a statement to Decrypto.co a spokesperson said:
“Although we may not always agree with those laws, we may need to block content if we receive a valid request from a government official, so that our users in that jurisdiction may continue to have access to GitHub to collaborate and build software.”Spokesperson Github (November 1st 2019, Decrypt.co)
The Gitlab solution to the Github problem
Last year blockchain startup Nebulous already moved all its software from Github to Gitlab. This company is working on decentralized cloud storage called Sia. Gitlab is the biggest competitor for Github, but still very small in comparison. One thing Gitlab has to offer over Github, is the option to host repositories. This means that developers can keep complete control over their tools and Gitlab or other third parties can never shut a project down.
Over the past decade Github has grown into the backbone of open-source software development. It’s the place to be for software and blockchain developers. However, it’s service is a centralized one. Microsoft paying 7.5 billion dollars for a software development platform only shows how big of a problem that really is.
Gitlab seems to be the best solution. However, Gitlab is using Microsoft Azure’s hosting framework. Even though Microsoft can’t have access to the data itself, it’s – theoretically – still a possibility that the American software giant will just block services or users from Azure. There are more options, like Buddy, Bitbucket, SourceForge, Gogs, Gitbucket and so on.
When you’re fighting a centralized power or you’re developing decentralized software, one shouldn’t be dependent on a centralized third party. The internet is now 50 years old, but it has been losing its freedom because of government control, regulations and commercial greed. Take control. Keep in mind: not your keys, not your money/project/information/identity.
Also published on Medium.