There is a popular theme running around the tech circles of Silicon Valley that Software is Eating the World.
This notion was coined some years ago by Marc Andreessen, the charismatic partner of well known venture capital fund Andreessen-Horowitz and the inspired creator of the break-through Netscape web browser (you know.. that piece of ‘software’ that 23 years ago basically introduced the world to the Internet!).
In a nutshell, if you subscribe to this line of thinking (it’s hard not to agree), then software is transforming every single human endeavour on the planet.
From the obvious, such as online retail and self-driving cars, to the not-so-obvious, such as law and agriculture, every business and everything else is getting infused with software. Every. Single. Thing.
Tech moves fast (no kidding right!)
Inside barely ten years, one company, GitHub, somewhat serendipitously finds itself at the very centre of modern software development (read our GitHub explainer here) and last week Techly covered their annual developer conference, the aptly named GitHub Universe.
Ok, ok, I can hear your thoughts. What’s the connection between a conference for geeks and a better world?
Well, it goes like this. When software is poorly written, it’s dangerous. It doesn’t just threaten our privacy, but can also literally cause bad accidents – and when everything is controlled by software, then everything has the potential to be dangerous. Hold that thought.
During the opening keynote presentation of GitHub Universe, GitHub CEO Chris Wanstrath announced a set of ripper new features, of which (at least in this author’s opinion) the most significant was the introduction of the dependency graph and security alerts.
The reason this is a big deal is because GitHub is uniquely placed to apply machine learning to it’s massive dataset of 67 million software repositories.
For millions of developers, the result is akin to Apple’s or Microsofts’s automatic security updates.
Talk about an early Christmas!
As someone who has been building websites for over twenty years, this new GitHub feature cannot be underplayed.
Keeping on top of patches and security updates across the hundreds of software libraries and dependencies that make up a modern website or mobile app is a full-time job.
It’s very easy to suddenly have an insecure piece of code as part of your project and not be aware. Anything that helps simplify the task of staying secure is really, really good news.
So, whilst it may seem a rather long bow to draw, we can connect the dots thus:
If software is eating the world; and GitHub is at the centre of software development; and safe, secure software just got a whole lot easier to create – then GitHub may well be one of the few Silicon Valley companies that is actually making the world a better place.
— InfoQ (@InfoQ) October 18, 2017
The author travelled to San Francisco as a guest of GitHub.