GitHub Isn't About Code

Mar 15, 2022

Only 3 of the top 10 repositories on GitHub actually contain real code.

The rest are either landing pages for learning how to code, navigating a career in software development, or marketing for all of the above.

  1. freeCodeCamp/freeCodeCamp [learn to code] 341,877 stars
  2. 996icu/996.ICU [political] 261,290 stars
  3. EbookFoundation/free-programming-books [learn to code] 225,423 stars
  4. jwasham/coding-interview-university [career] 212,268 stars
  5. vuejs/vue [project] 193,839 stars
  6. sindresorhus/awesome [list] 192,415 stars
  7. kamranahmedse/developer-roadmap [career] 188,317 stars
  8. facebook/react [project] 183,907 stars
  9. donnemartin/system-design-primer [career] 165,859 stars
  10. tensorflow/tensorflow [project] 163,422 stars

GitHub READMEs are the new landing page for developer oriented products. 3 (coding-interview-university, awesome, and developer-roadmap) of them even have paid sponsorships for marketing.

GitHub isn't really about code anymore. The code is an integral part, but I imagine engagement for Issues, Pages, and Discussions is significantly higher than just the code. Maybe that's why GitHub search and discovery has historically been lacking – the signals that are typically useful don't apply for code.

An implication for project owners is that you should keep as much as possible "above the fold" – keep your top-level file list short so that users don't have to scroll to get your marketing, I mean README page.

Maybe it's an unbundling opportunity. GitHub is inherently limited by it's legacy architecture built on, well, git. Users exploiting what GitHub gives away for free - storage and bandwidth – for listicles and career resources might not drive the bottom line of bottoms-up conversion to enterprise contracts.