GitLab latest to ditch 'master' as default initial branch name: It's now simply called 'main'

Only for new projects, but beware the hardcoded references


One-stop DevOps shop GitLab has joined the movement to change the default name for an initial branch in a Git repository in favour of something less historically problematic.

The default branch name for new projects for GitLab.com and self-managed users is to be updated from master to main.

GitHub announced it would be doing the same for its hosted repos back in June 2020. Shortly after, the Software Freedom Conservancy and the Git project posted that the group were "aware that the initial branch name, 'master', is offensive to some people and we empathize with those hurt by the use of that term."

Git went on to introduce a configuration option to allow users to choose something other than master for a default name and the project's maintainers have continued working towards a permanent change.

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Atlassian's BitBucket made the change from master in June 2020 and by October 2020 the default for newly created repositories in GitHub was main.

GitLab had already rolled out the changes necessary to allow users to change the default at both the instance level (for self-managed users) and the group level (which adds SaaS into the mix) if the user wishes. Things are to be nudged on a bit; the default branch name will be changed to main at the end of a two-phase process, culminating with the release of GitLab 14.0 on 22 May.

Users wedded to the term master will still be able to configure a custom default branch name for their projects.

Also being changed to main is the default branch name for the GitLab project itself, along with related projects.

It's the latest step in the movement to drop the use of loaded language in the tech industry, and there is still quite some way to go. While the likes of Redis and Python have made efforts to step away from the terms "master" and "slave", the phrases (and those like it) have been embedded over generations of IT professionals when, for example, discussing the finer points of replication.

Unpicking problematic terminology is therefore going to be a lengthy and controversial process, of which GitLab's change (if a little behind its competitors) is just the latest step. ®


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