GitHub plans to close Atom open source editor

The free Github Atom code editor will be discontinued in December 2022. The appointed CEO of Github, after Microsoft's purchase of the service in 2018, has in the past been extremely positive about the project and promised that it would live on and grow. However, now that the top manager has left Microsoft, Github intends to focus its attention on the more popular and promising open source Microsoft Visual Studio Code editor, which shares a code base with Atom, and the cloud service Codespaces.


Ending support for Atom

Microsoft's Github service has announced it is discontinuing development of Atom, a free text editor with syntax highlighting. The popular IT hosting service explains its decision by the declining interest in the project from the community, and the desire to focus on the development of cloud development tools such as Codespaces and Microsoft Visual Studio Code.

According to the developers, published on the Github blog, the Atom project has about six months to live. It will be ultimately shut down on December 15, 2022. On that day, the Atom repository and all the related repositories will be shut down. Github promises to facilitate the transition as much as possible, in particular by reminding its users of the impending demise of the editor through various communication channels.

Atom's development has slowed significantly over the past few years, according to a Github post. The editor has virtually stopped receiving functionality updates. Developers have focused on releasing security patches. According to the project's official website, the last release of Atom (version 1.60.0) is dated March 8, 2022.


About Atom

Atom is a free and open-source text editor that has been freely distributed under the MIT license since 2014. It is cross-platform - it works in Linux, macOS and Windows operating systems. It supports extensions (plugins) written in the JavaScript and CoffeeScript programming languages. "Out-of-the-box, it supports the syntax highlighting of 31 programming languages, markup and queries, including C, C#, Java, HTML, JavaScript, PHP, Python, Ruby.

The editor is based on the Electron (formerly Atom Shell) framework for building desktop applications using web technologies (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc.). The backend is provided by Node.js platform and Chromium (free version of Google Chrome) rendering libraries are responsible for drawing interface elements.

Atom on Windows 10
Atom on Windows 10


Electron was developed by Github specifically for Atom. However, it was later used as the basis for a number of popular products, including the "lightweight" code editor Microsoft Visual Studio Code, which Github team offers as an alternative to the "dying" Atom.

In addition, Electron uses very successful commercial products: the business messenger Slack, acquired by Salesforce at the end of 2020 for almost $28 billion; the messenger Discord, popular among fans of online games, and another corporate communications tool - Microsoft Teams. The latter developers intended to eventually migrate from Electron to Edge WebView2.


Github and Atom

Github believes that the discontinuation of Atom development will not have a significant impact on the state of the Github ecosystem.

"The Github API will continue to work, which will allow the service to integrate with thousands of other products," a service representative told The Register. He also noted that there are many strong alternatives to the editor on the market, highlighting the tremendous success of Visual Studio Code.

The Register believes that Atom will still be in demand after developers stop supporting it. Since the project is open source, we cannot rule out the possibility of forks (independent branches) that will continue to be developed independently of Github by the community.


Microsoft's plans for Atom

In June 2018, when Github came under Microsoft's wing, then-Redmond-based corporate vice president and Xamarin founder Nat Friedman was named CEO of the service.

As The Register notes, after the deal was completed, Friedman assured Atom users in a Q&A session with the popular Reddit resource that as part of Microsoft Github, he would continue to develop the editor in parallel with work on Visual Studio Code (VS Code).

"Atom is a fantastic editor with a healthy community, an adoring crowd, great design, and great collaborative perspectives," Friedman said. - At Microsoft, we use every editor possible, from Atom to VS Code to Sublime to Vim. We want developers to be able to choose their own editors to work with on Github as they see fit. So we will continue to develop and support both Atom and VS Code.


Atom after Friedman

Nat Friedman left Github and Microsoft in November 2021, explaining his decision as a desire to "get back to his roots," probably implying that he intended to go into business. He was followed by Miguel de Icaza, author of the open source projects GNOME, Midnigt Commander and Mono.

In his farewell address published on the Github blog, Friedman didn't fail to boast about the service's achievements during his tenure as CEO. He spoke in particular about the cloud environment Codespaces and the virtual programming assistant Copilot, launched with his participation. The Atom editor was not mentioned.

The cloud programming environment for the joint development of Codespaces Github was launched in August 2021. It includes Visual Studio Code, Copilot, functionality of version control, etc.

The service is designed for corporate clients and is available as part of Team and Enterprise plans. Payment for its use is per second, the tariff depends on the computing power of the leased virtual machine.



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