Coder, coder in the hall, which is the best editor of them all!

Sorry for the really cheesy opening line. I could not prevent myself from writing that. Just as we all could not prevent the certain demise of the most loved open source code editor of the last decade, Atom.

A brief history of Atom

Atom, released in 2014 by the then independent Git Hub team, was a huge hit among the programmers.

Its neat UI, features, and numerous add-ons made it the hot favorite of the developers.

It continued its popular run despite getting tough competition from Microsoft’s recently open-sourced VS Code editor.

Atom’s loyal fanbase didn’t budge despite the rising popularity of the VS Code until Microsoft acquired GitHub in 2018.

People started wondering how long will Microsoft continue developing two similar projects that don’t make any money for it directly.

In the last four years, it did seem that Atom was losing its charm. It didn’t have any significant feature development while VS Code got more attractive as features after features landed in every release.

The writing was on the wall. Microsoft branded VS Code was being favored over Atom.

Though I don’t have any stats to back my claim, it did seem that Atom’s userbase was declining in the last couple of years. VS Code is like the default editor for young developers.

It was only time that Microsoft pulled the plug on Atom and it did that finally.

GitHub discontinues Atom

On June 8, Microsoft-owned GitHub announced that it is going to archive the entire Atom project on December 15, 2022.

…we’ve decided to retire Atom in order to further our commitment to bringing fast and reliable software development to the cloud via Microsoft Visual Studio Code and GitHub Codespaces.

The stated reason is the same we all know; “Atom has not had significant feature development for the past several years” and “focus on enhancing the developer experience in the cloud with GitHub Codespaces”.

The Atom project was more than just an editor though. For good or bad, whatever you feel like, Atom also gave birth to Electron framework.

It’s worth reflecting that Atom has served as the foundation for the Electron framework, which paved the way for the creation of thousands of apps, including Microsoft Visual Studio Code, Slack, and our very own GitHub Desktop. However, reliability, security, and performance are core to GitHub, and in order to best serve the developer community, we are archiving Atom to prioritize technologies that enable the future of software development.

Atom dies a slow death and its fork will likely meet the same fate

Atom is open source so it’s not going to ‘rest in peace’ immediately. It will be resurrected (read forked) for sure.

However, even if someone forks the project and continues to keep it alive, it’s not going to match up to VS Code anymore. At best, it will get a few bug fixes and minor new features. That’s not entirely bad for the hard-core Atom lovers but it won’t attract newer, younger coders.

Ultimately, the forked projects will also be shut down eventually. It’s not possible for a couple of volunteer developers to match the might of a billion-dollar organization with huge infrastructure. Atom won’t get compared to VS Code any longer.

Atom will be missed. Maybe not by as many people as it would have been if it was to discontinue in 2018. The noose was tightened around its neck slowly and we all witnessed it.

Anyway, are you still using Atom? Will you move to VS Code or choose some other non-Microsoft editor?