GitHub suffers no bluffers in search to uncover & discover

GitHub has unveiled a technology preview.

This time, the update is focused on making improvements to searching code on the platform itself.

In the shadow of enterprise search now growing to become an entity and platform function in and of itself (think about companies like Elastic, Algolia, Commvault and the list of major brand products in this space like SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Search and IBM Watson Explorer), it is perhaps no surprise to see the code repository and version control specialists at GitHub wanting to surface this capability more prevalently in its core offering.

The team says that the preview provides an early look how it will make GitHub easier to use, which of course means helping developers explore and discover code.

Covering a search index of more than five million of the most popular public repositories – in addition to the private repositories users themselves have access to – the GitHub code search preview allows users to find what they’re looking for, with smart ranking and an index that is optimised for code.

It also works to search for an exact string of code, with support for substring matches and special characters, or use regular expressions (enclosed in `/` separators).

The technical team at GitHub says that they realise that it’s tough for developers to stay in a flow state.

“Whenever you look up how to use a library, or have a test fail because your developer environment has diverged from CI, or need to know how an error message can arise, you are interrupted. The longer it takes to resolve the interruption, the more context you lose,” writes Pavel Avgustinov, senior director of software engineering at GitHub.

For code search, Avgustinov says that the team’s vision is to help every developer search, discover, navigate and understand code quickly and intuitively. 

“Once you get to a result page, the rich browsing experience is optimised for reading and understanding code, allowing you to make sense of unfamiliar logic quickly, even for code outside your IDE,” he said.

The team plans to share more updates on progress soon, including deep-dives on the engineering work behind code search and the developers, open source projects, and communities it relies on.


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