Built Together, Built Better with GitHub

michaelaris    February 15, 2015

Organization name: GitHub

Name of Contacts:
Tom Preston-Werner, Co-Founder and Former President, GitHub
Chris Wanstrath, Co-Founder and CEO, GitHub
PJ Hyett, Co-Founder and COO, GitHub

Industry: Code Sharing Network – Social Networking Site for Programmers

Web references:

GitHub  – @GitHub
Twitter – @Twitter 
Mark Otto – @mdo
Jacob Thornton – @fat

Company Overview

College drop out, Chris Wanstrath began development of GitHub in October of 2007. By April of 2008, Tom Preston-Werner and PJ Hyett joined the team for its launch after the beta had been available for some time. GitHub is a web-based repository hosting service that utilizes Open Source. Git, which stands for distributed revision control systems: focuses on speed, data integrity, support for distributed and non-linear workflows. GitHub offers code-hosting services that allow its users to share and discuss codes with anyone who may come in contact with them online that may utilize their code. In conjunction with their code hosting services, they also provide a control system for the collaborative development of software. As of 2015, GitHub has 8 million users around the globe and 16.7 million repository projects – making it the largest open source code host worldwide. 

What is Open Source? 

Open Source is defined as ‘something’ (of a physical or creative entity) or a design, which can be modified, and be publicly accessible. Open Source is a concept, which promotes universal access to blueprints, designs, products and universal redistribution to anyone.

While the term ‘Open Source’ is a newly developed title, the concept has been seen from as early as the 20th century. American Industrialist, Henry Ford, challenged automobile monopolist, George B. Selden, who had patented the two-stroke car engine, stifling the development of cars in the United States. At the dissolution of this patent, the birthing of the Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association occurred. This agreement allowed auto manufactures to not only develop new technology and file patents, but also allow for the distribution of said patents amongst all manufactures’ to continue to develop and ‘modernize’ the automobile.

Henry Ford Defiance Advertisement

In modern time, the term is most commonly associated with modern day software’s which are commonly manipulated by programmers who extract features which do not function as they should, or adding features in which the public or programmers themselves feel are necessary to improve functionality.

A renowned name involved with Open Source liberation is software freedom activist and computer programmer, Richard Stallman. Stallman’s first brush with open source road blocking was in 1980 while employed at Al Lab. Stallman was actively communicating with Xerox regarding the source code on a recently installed laser printer, the Xerox 9700. However, Stallman dealt with push back from Xerox as he had modified the software and manipulated its functionality so it would be more conducive to the company’s needs and it’s users. It was this incident that commenced Stallman’s crusade against closed source capitalists. Being an activist for software freedom, in 2008, Stallman stated that any processing system, which restricts unlicensed access to the software, is a crime against humanity. At first glance, one would question the extremity of this statement; however, for the 100’s of major well known brands across the Web, they would not only happily attest to the validity of the statement – they’d confirm that the principles of Open Source are what their very company is built upon.

Who Uses GitHub? Twitter does.

How could giving away internal intellectual property enhance a business’ performance? When a company opens their doors to a virtually endless amount of volunteer contributors, the possibilities are endless. It attracts a large community of like-minded individuals who want to work towards a common goal.

In all cases, the product gets better.

The trade-off is simple. A business will give free, transparent access to a product’s internal workings. In return, community members will enhance that product whilst still retaining it’s right to use it freely. The business can now use the enhanced product in their projects and other developments.

This not only helps the business’ internal workings, but also makes the business more attractive to prospective employees and customers.

Top of mind – “This business gives back”

Twitter Case Study:

One of top 10 most visited web application companies that actively use GitHub is Twitter. With over 42 repositories and counting, Twitter pays homage to it’s roots, having been built with open source software.

With only 140 characters available, Twitter is a social network that allows users to deliver ‘tweets’ to their followers. The organization started in 2006 when Jack Dorsey sparked the idea of an SMS-based social network. Today, the user base has reached upwards of 288 million. With a mission statement like “To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers”, it’s no wonder that they are passionate about Open Source.

Open Source at Twitter:

Twitter was built on Open Source software including Apache, MySQL, and Ruby on Rails. If it wasn’t for the community members of those projects, Twitter may have never come to be. To nurture their ongoing relationship with the Open Source community, Twitter regularly shares their innovations with the GitHub community. One of the most popular, widely used and worked on products is Bootstrap.


Bootstrap is the most popular HTML, CSS, and JavaScript framework for developing responsive, mobile first projects on the web. Co-founded by Mark Otto at Twitter in 2011, it was developed out of necessity when Otto wasn’t happy with some of the internal tools for quick prototyping. After finding himself repeating many of the same processes, he saved himself some time by amalgamating his source code into a cohesive tool. From there, he and Jacob Thornton, his co-creator, pitched it to upper management at Twitter who then initialized it to become open source on GitHub. Since then, over 600 GitHub members, both inside and outside of the Twitter walls have enhanced this tool to being the most versatile of it’s nature on the web.

modern.IE interview with Mark Otto about Bootstrap:

Open Source is everywhere – even on this very site:

Every single one of us has come into contact with open source software somewhere on the web. The SMBP site itself, is built upon an Open Source content management system WordPress using the open source scripting language PHP running on the open source web server software, Apache.

Lessons Learned:

Every single one of us has come into contact with open source software somewhere on the web. The SMBP site itself is built upon an open source content management system WordPress using the open source scripting language PHP running on the open source web server software, Apache.

Open Source, while initially viewed to be a negative proves with it’s numerous users, that it is a system that publicly benefits and prides itself on development and design within it’s community. How this can help the people of business? Simple. With GitHub’s open source network, software is constantly growing, developing, changing and unifying in order to form a cohesive and technically sound program. The power to create is in the hands of its users; this concept gives businesses a plethora of possibilities.

Submitted By: Amanda Pereira, Michael Racioppo

To contact the author of this entry please email at: michael@mediaclassified.ca, pereira.amanda18@gmail.com

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Programme Director, Social Media for Business Performance.