GitHub CEO: "The future of coding is no coding at all"

On the eve of celebrating its first 10 years, GitHub outlines where the next 10 could go.

Next week sees GitHub turn 10 years old. In October 2007, the software repository start-up saw its first Git commit for building GitHub itself; a fairly unexciting default Rails app import.

But in the ten years since, GitHub has been anything but unexciting. The San Francisco company has become the default location for storing code, especially Open Source projects. It’s seen off the likes of Google Code while numerous new competitors such as GitLab have entered the market.

“We never thought that GitHub would be this big,” said co-founder and CEO Chris Wanstrath during the company’s Universe conference in San Francisco this week. “Because that community; this idea that open source was going produce software that massive enterprises were going to use seemed niche at the time.”

“We never thought Github would be this big, and that wasn't about thinking about our own ambitions, our own abilities, but we never thought there'd be so many people that believe the same things that we believed.”

Wanstrath said the company was started with a fairly simple goal in mind; make software development easier and more approachable.

“We wanted to remove that friction so you could really get into the zone, really get into the flow and focus on the unique problem you're solving, which isn't drinking coffee while your code is compiling and your build is running.”


It’s all about the data and the developers

Any talk of GitHub’s financials were avoided during the conference – the company reportedly lost at least $66 million last year – but there was plenty of talk about the scale of the company and the community around it: 67 million repositories, 53 million monthly visitors, 1.5 million teams, 100 million pull requests, 1.5 billion commits this year, all totalling around half a Petabyte of code.

Given the start-up’s dominance in the space, what’s left to conquer?

The majority of the new product announcements this week revolved around using the company’s vast amounts of data to make the experience of coding easier. On the human and social side, new explore and discovery tools make it easier to find project to use and contribute to, while a Community Forum and an almost Slack-like Team Discussion tool were announced (but aren’t yet in release).

There were also new tools to help put security closer to the heart of coding – the so-called ‘security by design’ utopia many security experts say we need but rarely see in practice: The new Dependency Graph allows users to see which projects your code depends on as well as projects that depend on your code. Many projects have more than 100 dependencies, some of which may have known vulnerabilities or problems, thus making it easier for users to understand potential issues. Also announced was security alerts; publicly known vulnerabilities detected in code will be highlighted, and fixes will be suggested where possible.


The next 10 years and the next 100 million developers

So what about the next ten years? Strangely, for a company known for hosting code, GitHub seems set on the idea that there’ll be less code yet many more people making software.

“What we’re thinking about now is the next 100 million developers. Their expectations, their ideas about collaboration, their demands around what it means to learn and build software and work together is going to be a lot more imaginative, a lot more creative than someone like me, who grew up in a world of AOL AIM.”

“Software is a means to an end, and the more people we can invite into that, the easier we can make it to get to that end, the better the world will be for all of us, the more powerful software will be and the brighter the future will be.”

Part of that future is a more streamlined, automatic coding experience, with very different input methods to those we see today.

 “The real meat of software development isn't the coding, it isn't the typing, it isn't the compilers. At the end of the day it's what you're building and the effect it has on the person you're building it for. Writing code is an amazing act, it's challenging, but in some ways, it can be a barrier. And what we're interested in is the future of coding being less about coding.”

“Coding is not the main event anymore. Building software is the main event. Coding is just one small part of it. We think the future of coding is no coding at all. we think autonomous coding is a very real thing.”

Wanstrath said that the act of coding, of actually sitting and typing instructions into a keyboard which pop up on screen, will go away.

“Eventually there's going to be zero code. Not for everything, but for some projects you're not going to have to code at all. We don't just have to automate warehouses and doctor's offices, we can also automate software development.”

“We talk about software eating the world, we talk about all this great technological innovation, and yet at the end of the day we're still just hitting buttons on a keyboard.”

“That doesn't mean this is going away, that means this is going to become more awesome, there's going to be more great tools, and more ways for you to communicate to the computer, to the system, what you want to build than ever before. We're going to have more control over the software we build in the future and it's going to be way better because all software is increasing together.”


Also read:
Where next for GitHub?

GitHub is converting its Atom text editor into an IDE
Enterprise GitHub projects of the week: Confidant, UI for UWP, & Ansible
Enterprise GitHub projects of the week: Envoy, NativeScript, & OpenShift
The difference between ‘open’ and ‘open source’