We're living in the age of Github. The company -- which has the same name as its central product -- emits a certain species of unalloyed nerd good. It's the kind of software people spend their lives in -- and it's the kind of software the shapes how people think.
Now they're making a play for nerds who don't write code.
For the uninitiated: Github helps programmers (and teams of programmers) keep track of different versions of code, an important task when hundreds of people might be editing the same code base or piece of software. It can compare two different code snippets and tell you what the differences between them are, and who made those changes. It can tell you how all the changes in a project compare to each other. And it can, in the service of that one, huge, change-tracking feature, do a ton of other things too.* The New Yorker published an online introduction to the service earlier this month.
So, Github is a singular phenomenon in the world of code. But three features it's launched in the past year indicate it's moving beyond that world to other quantitative domains.
In the past, if a user uploaded plain text or an image to Github, the service could display them as they appear. This goes for images, too, so if a user uploaded an image, then changed it, it could even display the differences between those changes:
But this year, it's begun to represent more than just text and images. In April, the website began rendering STL files, a file used by 3D modeling software, in 3D. Instead of seeing a series of numbers and descriptions, Github users would now see the object those data described. Earlier this summer, it began representing certain kinds of geographical data, not as text, but as maps, with the help of the Washington, DC-based startup Mapbox.