My Thoughts on Microsoft Acquiring GitHub

June 12, 2018
3 Minute Read

Last Monday, Microsoft bought GitHub for a whopping $7.5 billion.

Naturally, given how much the open source community uses GitHub, this caused quite the uproar. There were views from all across the spectrum. Some were saying that it was awful, while others were more optimistic about it. Elsewhere in the community, it has gone so far that GitLab, one of GitHub’s bigger competitors, even saw a large spike of project imports, likely because of the acquisition. I know I saw somewhere that SourceForge was even trying to court devs to move their projects to their platform.

I’ll admit, my initial reaction to the news was along the lines of “uh oh”.

Having several days to ruminate on it though, I can’t say I’m nearly as pessimistic as I used to be. I’d actually say that I’m cautiously optimistic. Microsoft definitely has had their share of acquisitions turning into horrors (see Skype), but the current Microsoft is quite different compared to the Microsoft of old.

Microsoft has the reputation, and rightly earned, of being hostile towards open source and the open source community. They have quite a lot of past bad acts to make up for. That said, Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft since 2014, has generally done a pretty good job with regards to the developer community. Microsoft has embraced the open source community, even going so far as to allow you to run Linux within Windows 10. Their .NET architecture even runs on Windows, MacOS, & Linux. I’m hopeful that with these changes, they can make GitHub even stronger for developers.

Now, my optimism doesn’t mean that I don’t have my concerns. Microsoft is a large company and they have their own version control system (VCS) in Team Foundation Server (TFS) that mirrors a lot of what Git and GitHub do. Git is of course not part of this acquisition, but it is the VCS that GitHub is built off of. My hope is that Microsoft keeps the two separate for the most part. Let the better parts of each system rub off on each other, but I don’t want to see any improvements of GitHub abandoned or semi-abandoned in favor of TFS.

It’s still way to early to make any real judgements. It could be a year or more before the effects become noticeable. I’m going to keep my cautious optimism, and withhold my judgement for the time being. I’d encourage you to do the same.

One More Note

I’ll say this though, the acquisition has created plenty of new memes in the development community ranging from bringing back Clippy to making fun of the constant annoying prompts to restart your computer for updates. It’s given me a few laughs.