After months of testing and loads of hands-on feedback from tens of thousands of users, GitHub's programmable text editor Atom is now available for the general public to download. Its pricetag: free, with its source code available under the MIT license -- an ideal choice to quell any lingering questions about its licensing or monetization method.
In fact, Atom could be considered a 21st-century Emacs, the venerable text editor that's still in wide use among veteran programmers. The galaxy of add-ons for Atom include not only support for the behaviors of another old-school text editor, Vim, but also everything from tabbed editing to tree-view explorations for an Atom project.
When word of Atom first began to circulate, some developers wondered what its licensing model would be (e.g., open core with for-pay add-ons), or how closely it would be tied into GitHub's services. In announcing Atom's release, GitHub's Nathan Sobo (Atom team developer) and Chris Kelly (developer relations lead) made it clear that the licensing was designed to "leave the door open to allow others to do what was best for Atom." There are no plans on the table to monetize the product, either through cost-plus add-ons or services.
"GitHub's core mission has been enabling collaboration with software," Sobo said. "We're developers too, and we wanted to build this for ourselves as it is, but also make the community as big and vibrant as it can me and worry about money later."
Another element of Atom that might give GitHub skeptics pause is the package management system. Like Node.js itself, Atom uses a package manager to control the installation of add-ons. But right now, the back end for those add-ons is only via repositories on GitHub itself. That said, Sobo and Kelly reassured me that future releases of Atom would allow users to define their own Git-based source for add-ons.
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