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GitHub has launched a new feature that allows companies and developers to offer project sponsors special access to a private repository.

The Microsoft-owned code-hosting platform first introduced GitHub Sponsors back in 2019, enabling anyone to donate to open source projects and maintainers who dedicate their time to supporting critical software. GitHub later extended the Sponsors initiative to support developer teams and organizations.

Now, however, there will be an extra perk for developers and companies that have enabled GitHub Sponsors for their projects — they will be able to reward and incentivize sponsors by giving them exclusive access to a private repository. This could be useful for giving early access to new products or features before they’re released under an open source license, for example, or simply to communicate with sponsors around anything related to a specific project.

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In effect, the new feature formalizes something that many developers were already enabling themselves manually, but GitHub now takes care of all the heavy lifting such as sending invites. Moreover, With Sponsors-only repositories, developers will be able to automatically grant different levels of access depending on the sponsorship tier the backer has chosen.

Sponsors-only repository

Support the supply chain

The launch comes at a time when industry and government are looking for new ways to support and secure the software supply chain. The recently discovered Log4j vulnerability resurfaced age-old questions around the security of open source software, particularly software that isn’t backed by full-time developer teams. For example, one of Log4j’s core maintainers has a full-time job elsewhere as a software architect, and only works on “Log4j and other open source projects” in his spare time.

With Sponsors-only repositories, developers will not only be able to solicit donations, but also better engage with backers — corporate or otherwise — at a deeper and more personalized level.

GitHub sponsorship

Alongside the new Sponsors-only repositories, GitHub now allows developers to set a minimum custom amount for sponsorships, and they can also write a customized message specific to each sponsorship tier.

Elsewhere, GitHub also now allows developers to attach metadata to their sponsor page URLs, which may help them track how new sponsors arrived on the scene — for example, they can see whether a tweet they sent out resulted in any direct sponsor signups.

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