GitLab: a case study in how to destroy a community and by extension destroy trust in your ability to survive.

If you have paid attention to this site in th past few minutes you might have noticed a few links disappear from the site. That's because I've removed Gitlab from this site (and also removed my account). The reason is simple: I can no longer trust the site with my data. This is in-part because of their bone-headed move to try to save money by deleting dormant projects from free-tier accounts. Now, to be fair, this might give folks incentive to move to paid plans, but what it did for me is make me re-evaluate if I needed the service (I don't) and if it was worth keeping (it isn't). So I instead deleted my account and all of the projects under there. Problem solved. Gitlab doesn't waste any money on my moribund projects and I don't have to give a shit about their next boneheaded maneuver to try to monetize what was essentially an unwritten contract of them being stewards for my code in perpetuity.

I used to work for SourceForge from 2008-2009. I was a long-time user prior to using GitHub for my projects. IN that time SourceForge has not removed one of my projects without me asking them to remove said project. They've somehow managed to figure out how to be free hosting (albeit with ads) and still maintain projects that have been moribund for decades. Somehow this has eluded the masterminds at Gitlab. Guess this is more free press for GitHub and the various alternatives that exist.

But what's worse is it erodes trust. Once you start trying to monetize your free tier by doing shit like this you essentially have started a countdown for the next boneheaded maneuver to try to eek out more dosh from your community. You've sent the signal that your company is in trouble and that some external investor is going to demand more revenue, more profit, and more conversions. You've basically told the community that your days are numbered as an independent entity and that sooner-or-later you'll have some convenient merger with some other company that aligns your synergies and then the shit hits the fan.

SourceForge was sold to Dice (aka: shitty Indeed) who immediately looked for ways to monetize the community. They decided their best route was to fuck with the downloads and turn it into something akin to CNET's downloads where each download was wrapped with a little malware hug inside. This was a colossally stupid idea, but they went with it anyway and jackhammered the remaining nails in SourceForge's coffin. Thankfully the company was later bought by people who actually gave a shit, but the damage was done. SourceForge has no chance of regaining their once proud position. GitHub ate SourceForge's lunch. Back when I was at SourceForge the writing was on the wall regarding GitHub creeping into our territory. With the Dice acquisition it was lacquered over and turned into a plaque that hung around SourceForge's neck. It still remains there to this day.

With this move Gitlab has said they'll always be a second-tier Git hosting platform. The writing is on the wall and the timer has been set. I'd say that I await their next ridiculous decision but I don't care anymore. They lost me. They'll lose others, and eventually will be forgotten.

Sure, this will save them up to $1 million dollars a year, but I won't be recommending their services to any folks who might be interested in paying. Pay GitHub instead. It was true in 2009 as it is today. Gitlab won't see a dime from me anytime soon because I can't trust them to be around in 5 years in their current form. They eroded the trust, and as someone who has witnessed the painful journey of SourceForge to regain even a smidgen of that trust it's a hell of a road to travel. But Gitlab has decided to walk that path. They'll have to do it without me and the scores of folks that are likely rethinking their long-term plans on this service.

And all the while Microsoft and GitHub will be cashing the checks.