Big Tech is on a Mission to Kill the Master-slave Term

Racially connected terms face scrutiny

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Photo by Angela Compagnone on Unsplash


The master-slave term has been a very popular term in tech and engineering. The use of the term goes back decades. It has mostly been used to show that a device or process controls one or more other devices or processes.

Of late, the master-slave word has come under scrutiny due to racial concerns. There has been growing concern as to what the term really represents and that it can be racially disturbing in many scenarios.

To that effect, there has been a movement, especially in the tech world to abolish the use of racially discriminating terms.

Current state

Tech giants Microsoft, Apple, Twitter, and Google all agree that offensive language has no place in tech. The open-source community has not been left behind either. For example, the Linux kernel team, Red Hat, PHP, MySQL, Jenkins are all adopting new terms to replace the master-slave term in their documentation and source code.

Recently GitHub changed the name of its default branch from master to main. See the new highlighted setup commands when you create a GitHub repository.

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Many in the industry now agree that the language we use must be as neutral as possible. Drupal and Redis have adopted the new term primary-replica. Below are more alternative terms.

Alternatives terms

If you are developer or architect it is time to adopt an alternative term. Here are some alternatives to the master-slave term that you can use in your projects.

  • hive-drone
  • primary-secondary
  • primary-replica
  • agency-operative
  • main-replica
  • initiator -target
  • host-proxy

Another term that has also faced scrutiny is blacklist-whitelist. Below are some of the alternative terms being used.

Alternatives to blacklist-whitelist

  • blocklist-passlist
  • denylist-allowlist

Final thoughts

While some individuals in the tech community believe that all this is shallow or myopic, researchers argue that continued use of use racially connected terms leads to racial stereotypes.

The new terms are here to stay, you better adopt and adapt.

Written by

I develop software by profession. My interests include: history, economics, politics & enterprise-architecture. I am a child of God.

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