Done deal: GitHub now belongs to Microsoft

Microsoft announced its plans to acquire GitHub last June. The news that Microsoft had planned to acquire GitHub inspired considerable gnashing of teeth. No surprise there. GitHub was a community of developers—the free-spirited, open-source type of developers. We actually found it interesting that the revulsion was not so vehement. Actually, we were sort of surprised to realize that GitHub was a company, which is sort of naïve, obviously, but it just sort of seemed like a cool clubhouse that just came together so developers could show each other their code, and have their friends play with it.

More important, GitHub is a repository for code, and the company provides access management, collaboration tools including bug tracking, feature requests, task management and wikis for the various projects. (Thank you Wikipedia, I don’t know what we’d do without you.) The company was founded in 2007 by Chris Wanstrath, PJ Hyett, Tom Preston-Werner, and Scott Chacon. Originally it was something of a clubhouse with a flat hierarchy and few rules for employees. However, as it attracted investors and more employees a more conventional hierarchy was formed. In June 2018, Microsoft and GitHub announced the deal. Last August, CEO Chris Wanstrath stepped down and the company was actively looking for a new CEO.

Now, at Halloween time, the company has completed that acquisition, which is a stock transaction valued at $7.5 billion and it has a CEO. Nat Friedman, who was CEO of Xamian, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2016, will become GitHub’s CEO, and will report to Scott Guthrie, Microsoft’s Executive Vice President, Cloud and AI. Guthrie, of course, is Microsoft’s long-time liaison to the development community. Friedman has spent much of his career in the open source community and has seemed to find a lot of entertainment in undermining Microsoft. At Novell, he worked transitioning employees off Microsoft Windows and Office and on to Linux Suse and OpenOffice. His company Xamian was dedicated to developing an open source cloud infrastructure until it was acquired by Microsoft, where Friedman has remained and has flourished. This history is not lost on open source developers.

Microsoft has been a generous contributor to the open source community. In an article we just wrote about Microsoft’s work on chat and AI, Lili Cheng says the company is seeding the open source community with technology because they want to see people pushing their technology further. See SmartTalk: Voice is the new playground for AI in TechWatch.

Microsoft pledges to respect GitHub’s “developer-first ethos” and GitHub will remain an open source platform. People interested in the future of GitHub are encouraged to read CEO Nat Friedman’s blog.

Microsoft has been undergoing a fundamental change as the cloud becomes central to its future, which is why many developers have been more sanguine about the transition.  The platform tribes around platforms such as Microsoft, Apple, Google make even less sense in a cloud-based world which tends to obscure silos, if not actually erase them in some applications.

Microsoft has already contributed a great deal of open source code to GitHub. There are over 30 repositories freely available to developers. Open source has proved to be a valuable resource for all companies whether they take advantage of the code and then build proprietary solutions or take advantage of the community and continue to build code bases with their own contributions.

What do we think?

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace, you…

By John Lennon