Gitlab U-turns on deleting dormant projects after backlash

Hacker News - Fri Aug 5 00:47

GitLab has reversed its decision to automatically delete projects that are inactive for more than a year and belong to its free-tier users.

As revealed exclusively yesterday by The Register, GitLab planned to introduce the policy in late September. The biz hoped the move would save it up to $1 million a year and help make its SaaS business sustainable.

This news did not go down well.

I was just enjoying learning Gitlab pipelines, but this is a bitter chaser. Financial troubles?

— Neil H. Watson (@neil_h_watson) August 4, 2022

GitLab has repeatedly refused to comment on its deletion plan, which we learned from well-placed sources. About an hour ago, the biz, which has not denied our reporting, tweeted to say it will archive dormant projects in slower storage:

We discussed internally what to do with inactive repositories.
We reached a decision to move unused repos to object storage.
Once implemented, they will still be accessible but take a bit longer to access after a long period of inactivity.

— 🦊 GitLab (@gitlab) August 4, 2022

The Register says that tweet does not quite reflect what really happened.

Documents we have seen gave staff notice of an internal meeting scheduled for August 9. The agenda for the meeting lays out the plan to delete dormant code repositories, describing it thus:

GitLab’s tweet may in the eyes of some netizens contradict its own notice to staff.

Other internal documents seen by The Register mention the possible use of object storage to archive projects but express concerns that doing so would increase GitLab’s costs by creating a need for multiple redundant backups.

We have also seen internal discussions confirming the automation code to delete inactive projects was completed by the end of July, and was ready to roll out after months of debate and development work.

One of our sources told us this afternoon that it was online pressure, led by The Register's reporting, that forced a dramatic rethink at the GitHub rival. Word of the deletion policy as a money-saving exercise sparked fury on Twitter and Reddit.

GitLab’s tweet has been welcomed but has also raised further questions:

If only the owner can recover it, have you considered the deeply unfortunate where a project owner maintainer dies and their code all becomes inaccessible a year after they cease activity on the site?

— Simon Willison (@simonw) August 4, 2022

The Register has asked GitLab to explain the tweet about object storage.

El Reg understands GitLab’s plan to delete inactive projects saw The Internet Archive and code preservation organisation Software Heritage begin planning to preserve the GitLab trove.

We will update this story if we receive substantive comment from GitLab. ®

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