Garaudy Etienne had known the computing concept of “master branch” before starting as a product manager at MongoDB, having heard the term while working with code as an engineer at prior companies.

But as he started to more deeply think about the use of “master,” and particularly after seeing database code where the term was paired with “slave,” Etienne decided it needed to go.

“I was like, ‘This has to change.’ There was a recognition that the terms weren’t appropriate,” he says.

Garaudy Etienne, product manager, MongoDB MongoDB

Garaudy Etienne, product manager, MongoDB

Etienne is among the team at MongoDB now taking a programmatic approach to eradicating “master” and “slave” from its code and documentation, joining other technology companies and individual technologists in pushing back against problematic language long used in the profession.

They have a lot of work ahead of them.

Tech terminology’s troubling past — and present

The use of “master” and “slave” is pervasive and wide-reaching in IT. The terms exist in recent deployments, and they’re also buried deep in legacy applications. That makes removing and replacing them as well as other problematic terms a complex, long-term project requiring cooperation and coordination across technology vendors, enterprise IT departments and tech groups such as standards associations and open source communities.

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