Raja Zuberi: ‘ProgramOnChain is building something better’ for GitHub users

Did you know that there is a Bitcoin-based alternative to GitHub? ProgramOnChain, created by Bakhtiar Zuberi—better known as ‘Raja’ across blockchain communities—was created to bring the benefits of Bitcoin to software repository management. When you create a software repository management service on the Bitcoin blockchain, its users will experience a number of advantages that GitHub does not provide, like immutability, microtransactions, continuous uptime, and more.

Kurt Wuckert Jr. caught up with Raja Zuberi to learn more about ProgramOnChain. They discussed why ProgramOnChain was made, how it embodies the open source philosophy much better than its centralized competitors, why it makes sense to put a software repository on chain, the benefits of putting it on chain, what needs to change in the Bitcoin SV (BSV) ecosystem, and why that change would lead to a greater good.

What do you say to people who ask, “What is wrong with GitHub? Why would I move my company’s repo to a blockchain?”

GitHub has tens of millions of users. In my opinion, if you just randomly pick someone out of this huge number and ask the same question, there’s a good chance that you’ll get the reply, “There’s nothing wrong with GitHub.” This is because GitHub, most of the time, for most users, does the required job in a fine manner. 

However, ProgramOnChain is building something better, and something that will eventually attract the attention of users of GitHub, GitLab, etc. [The] immutability of the BSV blockchain is superior to their (GitHub and others) servers. We’ve seen GitHub getting attacked and going down before; they managed to keep the data safe but there’s no guarantee that it’ll always remain that way.

Let’s suppose GitHub.com goes down OR stops providing services to your country OR your account gets suspended. You lose your history, your reputation, revisions, and a lot of stuff. Now suppose the very same happens at ProgramOnChain.com. What happens next? Your data remains in the blockchain, and the best part is, it’ll all be associated with a single BSV address of which you’ll have the private key [for]. So basically, you don’t lose anything, including your history!

There has been some criticism of GitHub being owned by Microsoft. In the spirit of open source and censorship resistant code, some developers don’t like the centralized nature of the repo. Was this on your mind as you created ProgramOnChain?

Of course! Microsoft’s acquisition of GitHub was massively disliked by the developers, and it forced a number of them to look for available alternatives. Some moved to GitLab, and some migrated their data to BitBucket. However, I’m sure that many of them will still be ready to move again if they’re provided a platform that gives easy access to the manageable hosting of their repositories on the (BSV) blockchain.

How is BSV utilized in the building of ProgramOnChain? Can you explain exactly how the application uses the blockchain?

It’s simple. Once someone registers at ProgramOnChain, a unique BSV address is tied to the provided account details. The (public/private) key pair of that particular BSV address is available to the registrant and it’s then used to perform all the BSV-related operations on the platform (such as depositing funds, uploading repository data to the BSV chain, tipping others, etc.).

So the code commits and the code itself is all saved on the blockchain? So both open source, and on a publicly available, censorship resistant ledger?

Correct! It’ll remain on ProgramOnChain servers only till it’s not uploaded to the chain. Once it is, with a click, uploaded to the chain, it’ll be on, as you termed, publicly available, censorship resistant ledger. 

Are you using a proprietary wallet, or will you be using existing wallets like MoneyButton and RelayX? 

As of now, there’s no MoneyButton/RelayX integration, and it’s all about a dedicated address associated with each account. However, both integrations will definitely happen in the future as they make many of the BSV-related actions simpler and faster. Moreover, there is a plan of inclusion of BTC as well, only to prove how worthless it is when it comes to the actual usage of blockchain.

How are you monetizing the project? Are you able to make a profit from a portion of the fee to use the service? 

Right now, there’s zero focus on profit-making, so there’s no fee included. I, along with my little team, have managed to build the base of the platform on the sidelines, and are happily going to move forward with no fee till at least we are able to attract a little bit of GitHub’s traffic. So consider the platform to be completely free-to-use for at least a year, and expect it to evolve considerably till then. However, everyone is welcomed to support the project and that can be done in many ways.

Is there anything about the journey that you think should be simplified for future developers? For example, some developers have mentioned that the Ethereum or EOS virtual machines are very nice even though the networks are undesirable for other reasons. What would you change about BSV or what supporting tools would make your life easier?

I think there’s a harsh truth related to BSV that I’ve realized. I believe BSV has lost the “plain regular users” because of all the negativity around. I see a lot of developers’ activity, but too little engagement with the products (that results into not-so-good products). I see a lot of newbies joining crypto, but hardly any newbie exploring BSV. The focus of major BSV-related channels seems to be too much concentrated towards attracting either the already-in-crypto people or the developers, instead of educating the newbies and attracting the plain users.

I remember that in January this year, I developed and open-sourced a little code of “phone-hosted” stakepool for Cardano’s Shelley testnet, and I received a lot of activity, comments, etc., on it, resulting in a much more optimized version of the product. This is something I missed so far in the case of ProgramOnChain. There are only a few tens of people that have registered on the platform since the release despite the platform being promoted on major BSV social media channels. BSV is superior to BTC/ETH, and I believe that a few BSV-related traditions need to change in order to make people realize it. Maybe start with establishing talks with Binance’s CZ again? I’m not sure, but something definitely needs to change.

What can we expect to see from the ProgramOnChain team in the future?

[We have a] major update [coming that will be reminiscent of] the Git experience. Right now, you’ve got to go to the website in order to access your account, upload your files from webpage, etc. But the upcoming update will allow you to login directly through any CLI such as Git bash and let you upload your data through such applications.

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