No longer prepared to svn commit: WebKit migrates to GitHub

Apple's web engine to take advantage of Git’s distributed nature, GitHub’s large community

Apple web rendering engine WebKit, the basis of its Safari browser, is migrating to Git.

The project will now adopt the Git tool for version tracking and the GitHub service as host for its source code. It previously used Apache's source code management system, Subversion (aka svn).

The project said it froze its Subversion tree and transitioned management and interaction with its source code to the free and open-source software on GitHub on June 23.

By moving platforms, Apple WebKit ops engineer Jonathan Bedard said the project can take advantage of Git's distributed nature and its large community, thus allowing multiple orgs to collaborate. Moving commits is also easier on Git.

“Git’s local record of commit messages, along with Git log’s ability to limit commit history to certain parts of the repository, mean large projects no longer require antiquated ChangeLog files be checked in with each commit,” said Bedard.

And as many new contributors to the WebKit project preferred to use git-svn mirrors, the transition was considered easy when it came to existing tools and workflows and users had many options.

What users may find frustrating with the move is that git hashes are not naturally ordered, so WebKit will be employing a system of "commit identifiers" to keep track of ancestors. WebKit has a "zero-tolerance performance regression" policy, meaning no patch can land if it regresses benchmarked performance.

And while many developers are asking why such a migration took so long, not all think it's a great idea.

"GitHub has had more than 50 outages this year alone, and has a rocky history of recourse-lessly banning users from countries that are sanctioned by the United States. Switching to github makes no sense if 'The WebKit project is interested in contributions and feedback from developers around the world'," commented one user on tech forum hackernews.

Others have expressed how nightmarish the transition to Git can be, even if the end product is smoother.

But as one user put it: "Given that GitHub is a somewhat universally understood host that people seem to like, and it has all that UI/development integration that people like it kind of makes sense to just use that. It also seems that having GitHub accounts is increasingly widely spread so contributors would not necessarily have to create yet another account with yet another service." ®

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