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  • GitHub Copilot launches private beta of code referencing feature.
  • The feature allows developers to see matching public code suggestions without automatic blockage.
  • It offers developers a choice to use, reject, or rewrite the suggested matching code.

In an attempt to balance functionality with creative control, GitHub has introduced a private beta of a new code referencing feature for its tool, GitHub Copilot. This feature is set to provide developers the autonomy to view matching code suggestions instead of automatically blocking them, a key shift in the platform’s operations. Developers can now interact with these suggested code snippets, choosing either to utilize them, reject them, or use them as a foundation to rewrite their own version.

Shift in GitHub Copilot Operations

Prior to this development, the platform’s default setting was to block suggestions of matching public code. This functionality was incorporated into GitHub Copilot in 2022, as the tool sought to curb the challenge of code duplication. However, the blockage proved restrictive to some developers who were interested in viewing and possibly utilizing these matching code suggestions within their company’s licensing limitations.

Code Referencing Approach

Recognizing the need for a more balanced approach, GitHub developed the code referencing feature back in November 2022. With this function enabled, GitHub Copilot will not block matching code, but will display it to developers, allowing them to decide the best course of action. This feature is also slated to become a part of Copilot Chat in the near future.

GitHub CEO, Thomas Dohmke, explains that this feature enhancement is about enabling user control and promoting exploration. He suggests that the original blocking tool was a “blunt instrument”, limiting developers’ ability to discover and utilize open-source libraries, and even preventing them from submitting pull requests. The code referencing feature is expected to fill this gap, providing developers with the option to explore and make informed decisions, especially when confronted with copyright issues.

While the current system doesn’t allow filtering by specific licenses, GitHub is actively soliciting user feedback to refine and enhance this feature. Additionally, the search engine’s performance and results presentation are areas that GitHub is keen on improving. The platform remains committed to ensuring developers have the flexibility to leverage public code in ways that are most beneficial to their coding processes.