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Introducing Graphite

✏️ Introducing Graphite: a powerful, modern, and opinionated code review platform for fast-moving software teams.

Our story starts like that of many developer & productivity tools companies - a technical founding team leaves their big company roles and discovers that their favorite internal tools don't exist in the outside world. For us, that moment came when we formalized our code review process for our first engineering hires. At the time, we were working on another startup idea - instant rollbacks for iOS apps - but it quickly became hard to ignore the pain we felt around code review.

We not only felt like we were spending more time reviewing, but also that the tools we were using for code review were significantly less powerful than what we had used at places like Facebook and Google. Our first engineer summed up this sentiment best when he said that the industry-standard code review platform for startups "made [him] feel like a caveman" by comparison. When we talked to our peers we quickly realized we weren't alone - many engineers at fast-growing companies spend 20% or more of their time on code review every week and shared our feeling that the internal code review platforms like Critique (Google) & Phabricator (Facebook, Dropbox, Uber, Pinterest, Quora, Twitter) made both authoring and reviewing code changes faster and more efficient.

The most important feature we missed was stacked changes - the ability to break up a large engineering task into a series of small, incremental code changes, each of which can be tested, reviewed, and merged independently. As a code author, stacking changes helps us stay unblocked while we wait for code review, get higher-quality review comments, and land small changes faster. As code reviewers, we can share feedback on smaller, easy-to-comprehend changes, spend less time re-reviewing, and easily bisect and roll back if something goes wrong.

We built the first version of Graphite as an internal tool to help us work with stacked changes on top of GitHub, but didn't think to share it outside of our team until Phabricator announced that they were shutting down earlier this summer. The outpouring of support from engineers who wanted to continue writing and reviewing stacked changes post-Phabricator underscored the potential of what we were building to help other teams & companies beyond ourselves. This motivated us to focus our full attention on Graphite.

Beyond stacked changes, we've realized that in building Graphite we have an even bigger opportunity to create a more powerful and enjoyable way to review code. In the past few years, we've seen products like Linear, Superhuman, and VSCode redefine the standard for what great developer & productivity tools look and feel like. We think our code review tool - in which we spend a full workday every week as engineers - deserves this same level of craftsmanship.

This fall, we're launching a powerful, modern, and opinionated code review platform with the following features:

  • First-class support for creating & reviewing stacked changes

  • Customizable pull request inboxes (i.e. "Needs your review", "Your PRs", "Your team's PRs")

  • Keyboard-first review workflow

  • Response time of <100ms

  • Clear, actionable comment types (i.e. nits, suggested changes, blockers) & discussion history

  • Support for gifs, memes, and other small things that help make code review less of a chore

Best of all, anyone can start using Graphite individually without needing their coworkers to change tools - we store every pull request & review directly on GitHub.

If you're interested in helping us reimagine code review, you can sign up for our private beta and follow us on Twitter. This is only the beginning of our journey building Graphite, and we can't wait to share more of our progress soon!

-MerrillTomasGreg, & the Graphite team.

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