GitHub has proved itself a more-than-capable platform for sharing open-source software and allowing project ecosystems to grow and thrive, but it’s also spawned a unique form of informational crowdsourcing.
“What happens when…” is a prime example of this fascinating use case, and our GitHub Project of the Week. Created by Alex Gaynor, a digital service expert for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and a director of the Python Software Foundation, the project aims to answer a seemingly simple question, and one that affects anyone who’s ever performed a browser search, in as much detail as humanly possible:
“What happens when you type google.com into your browser’s address box and press enter?”
With more than 4,400 stars, 240 forks and 160 commits in the past week, “What happens when…” has shown the power a platform like GitHub can have in answering a complex software question down to the most minute step.
Starting with the “enter” key bottoming out and the Interrupt vector firing, the open-source crowdsourcing information quest maps the paths of “google.com” through Windows, Mac and Linux from URL parsing, DNS lookup and the TLS handshake, to HTTP protocols, HTML, CSS and rendering, all the way to user-induced execution.
GitHub’s active developer community banded together to trace the convoluted split-second journey of an arbitrary search term through a search engine to the homepage of another (or the same, depending on your browser) search engine… just because it can. The combination of a social online code repository and collective developer curiosity is a powerful force.
The full, excruciatingly detailed journey of “google.com” can be found in all its glory on the project’s README.
This week’s Top 5 trending GitHub projects
#1: Not surprisingly, is “What happens when…”
#2: GitHub Cheat Sheet, one of the most popular GitHub projects of all time, has taken up a spot on the Top 5 list on-and-off for quite a while. The collection of cool hidden and not-so-hidden features of Git and GitHub first popped up back in April 2014.
#4: Front-end Job Interview Questions are exactly what they sound like: a list of helpful front-end related questions you can use to interview potential developer candidates, test yourself or completely ignore, compiled by open-source software group H5BP.
#5: µBlock is a general-purpose blocker add-on for Chrome, Firefox and Safari. µBlock blocks ads through Adblock Plus filter syntax support, extending that syntax to work with custom rules and filters.