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Microsoft GitHub Acquisition Continues Focus on Open Source

Ross Kelly

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Microsoft-GitHub

Microsoft is to acquire code-sharing platform, GitHub, in a move worth £5.6 billion that marks a concerted shift toward a developer-first ethos. 

Microsoft has announced it is to acquire code-sharing website, GitHub, the biggest online repository of open source software.

The deal will see Microsoft purchase a staggering £5.6 billion in stock and is due to be completed by the end of the year, with Github retaining a large degree of autonomy and control over its operations.

In a statement released by Microsoft, company Chief Executive, Satya Nadella said: “We recognise the community responsibility we take on with this agreement and will do our best work to empower every developer to build, innovate and solve the world’s most pressing challenges.”

Developer Concerns

Github is used by over 28 million developers worldwide, with more than 1.5 million organisations across a myriad of industries using the open-source code-sharing website. Microsoft’s Codeplex was intended to be a rival for the code-sharing website after its launch in 2006, however after 11 years the site was shut down as its popularity dwindled. At the time of its closure, Microsoft claimed “GitHub is the de facto place for open source sharing” – as such the motivations behind this move appear evident.

This move marks a significant change of culture compared to the early 2000’s – an era in which open source software was viewed as a threat to proprietary software rights and brands. Former CEO, Steve Ballmer, compared Linux to cancer for what he believed public licensing did to intellectual property rights.

Comments like these are leading developers around the globe to view the acquisition with suspicion. Although the company has changed its approach toward open source software in the years since Ballmer’s comments, developers are still anxious.

Since the announcement large numbers of developers have began migrating projects to services such as GitLab, another open source alternative to GitHub that offers free-to-use and premium versions. GitLab has witnessed a spike in the number of migrations from GitHub, with over 13,000 projects imported in a single hour.

These numbers are a drop in the ocean when one considers that there are over 80 million projects on GitHub, however this could reflect concerns among developers and mark a shift toward other services.

A petition on Change.org was even launched in an effort to prevent the acquisition. On the petition page it states: “Microsoft has proposed buying Github. We do NOT want that to happen. Help show that Github should stay independent and not sellout to Microsoft by signing this petition!”

Essential Tool

The San Francisco-based firm has grown to become an essential tool for coders. Global brands such as Microsoft and Google use the platform to store their corporate code and to collaborate on projects. Additionally, it acts almost as an alternative social network for developers and industry figures.

There have been recent concerns over the company’s viability as a business, however. Over three quarters in 2016 the firm lost a staggering $66 million and spent over nine months searching for a new chief executive between 2016 and 2017; a search that was led by CEO Chris Wanstrath.

Retaining Autonomy

Microsoft said in a statement that Github will “retain its developer-first ethos” and will continue to operate independently; providing an open platform for all developers in all industries. Developers will still be able to deploy code to any operating system, device or any cloud.

Microsoft Corporate Vice President Nat Friedman – described as an open source veteran – will assume the role of GitHub CEO; while Wanstrath will become a Microsoft technical fellow to work on what the firm describes as “strategic software initiatives.”

“I’m extremely proud of what GitHub and our community have accomplished over the past decade, and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead. The future of software development is bright, and I’m thrilled to be joining forces with Microsoft to help make it a reality” Wanstrath said.

Continuing, the former CEO said: “Their focus on developers lines up perfectly with our own, and their scale, tools and global cloud will play a huge role in making GitHub even more valuable for developers everywhere.”

Wanstrath also showed his gratitude on Twitter, saying “thank you to every developer building software on GitHub” and that the company mission and ethos will continue under new leadership.

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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