Github: apps and websites

Tags: git, sourcecontrol, website, app, tools

The Github for windows app is out today. I have installed it on a machine or two.

I like github's social coding model. Quite a bit. I'm even working on learning the commands needed to use some of the real power of the underlying git source control system.

When github for mac came out a while back, I was puzzled – what need did this app fill? Weren't mac users already well served by the  github website and existing git clients. A native app might make sense if the website was rubbish, but it's not. The github website is top-notch.  And if it was rubbish, wouldn't fixing that be the priority? That migyht benefit all users.

Take this journalist burbling about how the github for windows app "will bring the popular Git repository and forking tool to windows" to our "relief". Presumably we were languishing in the gitless desert due to lack of a git client that was welded to this particular backend. Well, no.

We are at an interesting juncture in software at present. It's often not an obvious choice if you should go for a web app or a desktop app for a given problem. For instance, your next music player might be a html5 app.  If the app is like a newspaper or blog – i.e. lots of text, frequent new content, no real-time interaction – then a web app is probably the way forward.  

If it needs to work with files a lot then a desktop app is probably what you want. Yes, this includes source control systems like subversionor git. But git basically is a set of commandline tools, and several guis have been built over that. What unserved niche does the github app target, given the github website, regular git and TortoiseGit, IDE plugins and toolkits like Posh-git? And is it a niche of any significance? 

All that a github desktop client can do is bringing the functions of the github website together in one window with the functions of the git client. When I heard about git for mac I thought that this advantage was negligible to zero.The barriers to entry aren't that high - coders are supposed to be able to generate an .ssh key right? There are detailed walkthroughs. There are books online. And if any software tool was designed to be used with the hood off, with engine grease getting on your fingers, it's git

Now I'm not entirely sure. This client will lower the barrier even more. It is proably going to be fun to use. If this effect is non-negligable is still open to question for me. No doubt github have stats from their experience with github for mac. 

If you are at a small company with very limited cash, and have to choose between investing in improving your website for all of your users and investing in making a desktop app for some of your users, mostly you'll want to do the first. I guess these apps show that github is not a small cash-limited company any more, and can reach for some less low-hanging fruit.