Microsoft-owned GitHub just launched new features to help its over 50 million developers collaborate on, secure, and write code in the cloud (MSFT)

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  • On Wednesday, GitHub launched a tool called Discussions where developers can chat about projects and ask questions. 
  • In addition, GitHub worked closely with the team from the popular open source code editor Microsoft Visual Studio Code to launch a cloud-hosted developer environment called Codespaces.
  • GitHub also launched new security scanning features, as well as GitHub Private Instances, which includes security and compliance features for large businesses.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

GitHub, a platform where over 50 million users create and share open source software projects, launched several new features on Wednesday to help developers collaborate and secure their code.

The Microsoft-owned company announced new security features, as well as Discussions and Codespaces, tools for people to discuss projects and write code in-browser, respectively.

“People — more than ever — are coming together across the planet, whether to do their work or collaborate with each other, to give back to the broader global community,” GitHub senior vice president of product Shanku Niyogi told Business Insider. “We are always looking for ways to make that easier and remove the barriers to collaboration.”

This is the latest in a string of recent news from GitHub: Last month, it dropped prices for its paid plans and announced a new free plan and, in March, it announced the acquisition of NPM, which builds widely-used tools in JavaScript, the most popular programming language on GitHub. Both Discussions will be free, while some of its enterprise security tools will be part of a paid plan. Codespaces will be free during the beta, but GitHub will eventually offer pay-as-you-go pricing.

The goal of GitHub Discussions is to allow users to interact about specific projects. Developers can use it to talk about how they’re using a project, ask the people maintaining that project questions, and just generally chat with other community members. 

Github tracks how much users have contributed to various projects and Discussions will now allow them to log contributions for answering questions and helping others out (previously, contributions were earned through coding).

“It’s a lot easier to learn if you’re working as a team and if you have other people to lean on and give you recognition,” Max Schoening, vice president of product design at GitHub, told Business Insider. “GitHub Discussions is this community forum. You get together around metaphorical campfires around open source projects.”

Currently, GitHub developers can ask questions or submit problems through an Issues tool, but that can create negative incentives where maintainers dismiss problems without resolving them to keep a project’s issue count low. The company thinks Discussions will allow users and maintainers to concerns in a more productive way.

“Discussions are more open-ended in nature,” Schoening said. “We don’t have to find a resolution right now. It’s just a place where you can have an open-ended conversation without having to come to a resolution as soon as possible.”

He predicts that the Discussions tool will become a thriving, useful space: “Whenever we give the GitHub community a new canvas, they start painting really amazing things on that canvas.”

GitHub also launched Codespaces, which allows users to develop in-browser with the click of a button and without having to download anything. 

“Instead of taking 30 minutes to get started, it takes you maybe two minutes before you can be productive,” Schoening said.

To create Codespaces, GitHub collaborated closely with the team that makes Visual Studio Code, Microsoft’s popular open source code editing app, which is currently the top open source project on GitHub. 

“We didn’t want to give developers a slightly less sophisticated version on the cloud than you’re used to on the desktop,” Schoening said. “We wanted to give the same experience.”

GitHub also launched a handful of security features on Wednesday as well, following its pattern over the past year of focusing closely on security.

For one, GitHub launched code scanning, a feature that will scan projects for vulnerabilities or other issues. This tool is a result of GitHub’s acquisition of the code analysis startup Semmle last fall. 

GitHub senior vice president of product Shanku Niyogi

GitHub


“If people are going to collaborate on any scale, it’s important they’re able to do that securely,” Niyogi said. “For us, it’s not just about anopportunity, it’s about aresponsibilityto help developers write more secure code in the first place.”

In addition, GitHub launched a tool called “secret scanning.” As the name suggests, the feature scans a project to make sure that developers are not accidentally leaving any sensitive information in their code, like passwords or private keys.

“If I build a new app today, I’m getting the work of tens of thousands of developers and strangers,” Niyogi said. “That’s super powerful but it can also be super scary, especially giving access to my production and application. It’s super important that that be done in a safe way.”

Finally, GitHub launched GitHub Private Instances for enterprises, tools that are aimed at helping organizations like banks, healthcare companies, and government organizations follow compliance guidelines, backup archives, and add encryption.

Do you work at GitHub or Microsoft? Got a tip? Contact this reporter via email at rmchan@businessinsider.com, Signal at 646.376.6106, Telegram at @rosaliechan, or Twitter DM at @rosaliechan17. (PR pitches by email only, please.) Other types of secure messaging available upon request.

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