FSF details progress on ‘ethical’ code hosting platform…look away Git**b

Code hosting

The Free Software Foundation has issued an update on its efforts to launch a public code hosting and collaboration platform, and after a review of ethical web-based software can confirm that…it probably won’t be based on GitLab.

The FSF first aired its plans for a new “forge” last year, and this week confirmed “members of the FSF tech team are currently reviewing ethical Web-based software that helps teams work on their projects, with features like merge requests, bug tracking, and other common tools.” Which sounds like some other platforms you may be aware of.

The new site would “complement the current GNU and non-GNU Savannah servers, which we will continue to support and improve, in collaboration with their awesome volunteer team”, it added.

The statement went on to say, “it’s unfortunate that so much free software development currently relies on sites that don’t publish their source code, and require or encourage the use of proprietary software. Our GNU ethical repository criteria aim to set a high standard for free software code hosting, and we hope to meet that with our new forge.”

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Thus, the team has been researching a list of candidate programs, “and analyzing them in terms of ethical and practical criteria….We aim to initially reach a B rating on the GNU ethical repository criteria, and then to work towards reaching an A rating after we launch.”

Hitting that B minimum, “will require LibreJS support, no third party tracking, proper license information, and more. We also came up with a list of practical criteria, which includes two-factor authentication (2FA), high performance, being well supported upstream, and other common forge features.”

Given all of that, there are three platforms currently subject to “ongoing evaluation”: Pagure; Gitea; and Sourcehut. On these Pagure apparently “seems most likely, its [sic] our current focus”, with efforts to excise JS to get to that B rating “trivial”.

GitLab comes in as “evaluated and not currently focused on, with pros listed as “lots of features” and “very popular”, but a long list of Cons, ranging from a C – soon to be an F –  on GNU ethical repo criteria, because it sometimes requires “users to run nonfree Google ReCAPTCHA code” as well as “problems like it helps Google track users and train their AI models”. Other issues, from the FSF point of view, include adding LibreJS support being “nontrivial”, and issues around GitLab’s licensing recommendations.

There might even be other git-based platforms you can think of, but we’re guessing the FSF also thought of them, and decided they could safely ignore them.

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