|Developer(s)||Troupe Technology Ltd. (subsidiary of GitLab Inc.)|
|Platform||Web, Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux|
Gitter is an open source instant messaging and chat room system for developers and users of GitHub repositories. Gitter is provided as software-as-a-service, with a free option providing all basic features and the ability to create a single private chat room, and paid subscription options for individuals and organisations, which allows them to create arbitrary numbers of private chat rooms.
Individual chat rooms can be created for individual git repositories on GitHub. Chatroom privacy follows the privacy settings of the associated GitHub repository: thus, a chatroom for a private (i.e. members-only) GitHub repository is also private to those with access to the repository. A graphical badge linking to the chat room can then be placed in the git repository's README file, bringing it to the attention of all users and developers of the project. Users can chat in the chat rooms, or access private chat rooms for repositories they have access to, by logging into Gitter via GitHub (which does not involve sharing the user's GitHub password with Gitter).
- Notifications, which are batched up on mobile devices to avoid annoyance
- Inline media files
- Viewing and subscribing to ("starring") multiple chat rooms in one web browser tab
- Linking to individual files in the linked git repository
- Linking to GitHub issues (by typing # and then the issue number) in the linked git repository, with hovercards showing the details of the issue
- GitHub-flavored Markdown in chat messages
- Online status for users
- User hovercards, based on their GitHub profiles and statistics (number of GitHub followers, etc.)
- Browsable and searchable message archives, grouped by month
- Connection from IRC clients
Integrations with non-GitHub sites and applications
Official Gitter apps for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android are available.
Advantages and disadvantages
Like other chat technologies, Gitter allows users and developers to instant message (both users with developers, and developers with each other). Because of its integration with Github authentication and its web-based chat client, it is easy for developers who use GitHub to create or join a chat room without needing to install any extra software, or create another username/password pair to remember.
Maximalist GitHub permissions
Gitter does not provide a regular password authentication. Instead, it asks for maximalist GitHub account permissions.
The fact that messages posted to Gitter chat rooms are preserved indefinitely in chat room logs means that all users can see all messages in a chat room going back to when the chat room was created, which is useful for finding previous discussions and solutions to problems.
However, like logged IRC channels, Gitter has a tradeoff of greater convenience against lower privacy relative to unlogged IRC channels: messages in a permanently logged chatroom are by definition not ephemeral and may cause embarrassment for users who later regret making ill-considered offhand comments in a chatroom.
Gitter was created by some developers who were initially trying to create a generic web-based chat product, but then wrote extra code to hook their chat application up to GitHub to meet their own needs, and realised that they could turn the combined product into a viable specialist product in its own right.
On March 15, 2017, GitLab announced the acquisition of Gitter. Included in the announcement was the stated intent that Gitter would continue as a standalone project. Additionally, GitLab announced that the code would become open source under an MIT License no later than June 2017. The source code has since been published in a set of repositories on GitLab's own instance of GitLab.
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