MySQL drops master-slave and blacklist-whitelist terminology

Engineering teams update internal terminologies all over the tech world. Latest examples include Twitter, JP Morgan, and Splunk.

MySQL

Developers behind the MySQL database announced plans this week to stop using and replace terms like master, slave, blacklist, and whitelist in the database's source code and documentation.

In a blog post on Wednesday, the MySQL team said it would replace the current terms with new ones like source, replica, blocklist, and allowlist, respectively.

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An alternative considered for the master and slave terms were primary and secondary, but MySQL developers dropped the two on the grounds of technical accuracy.

The MySQL team, which runs the second most popular database engine on the internet according to DB-Engines, did not explain its decision to change its nomenclature; however, the change comes as multiple other companies and open source projects have started removing the same terms from their codebases and documentation on the grounds of being harmful and insensitive language that leads to racial stereotyping.

Just two days after the MySQL team's announcements, Twitter's engineering team also announced similar plans to change terminology in internal tools and its open source projects.

According to the company, Twitter's engineers plan to remove nine insensitive terms, including whitelist, blacklist, master/slave, grandfathered, various gendered pronouns, and terms like man hours, sanity check, and dummy value. Each will be replaced with the following new terms, Twitter said.

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Other companies and open source projects who recently promised to make similar changes and clean up their tech lingo include GitHub, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Ansible, Splunk, Android, Go, PHPUnit, Curl, OpenZFS, OpenSSL, JP Morgan, and others.

The trend to remove insensitive and racially-charged terms from source code, tools, and documentation took off after Black Lives Matter protests erupted in the US, sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020.

The primary goal of these efforts is to make tech products and IT environments more welcoming for people of color. Some members of the tech community have criticized the movement as being shallow virtue signaling rather than anything that helps people of color and systematic racism.

However, work published in academic journals has long argued that continuing to use racially-charged terms prolongs racial stereotypes.