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Microsoft’s Purchase of GitHub: One Year Later

Microsoft’s Purchase of GitHub: One Year Later picture: A
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Published on November 7, 2019

Last year, Microsoft dropped the news that they were acquiring Github, the leading version control for software development. Opinions and projections were everywhere. At a high-level, there were two views on the deal: either Microsoft was furthering their embrace of open source or they were going to ruin GitHub.

By fall 2019, we now have some perspective on evaluating what Microsoft did — and how GitHub changed. Here, we'll recap the details of the purchase and predictions from last year, and explore what has since transpired.

Microsoft Acquires GitHub for $7.5 Billion

In June 2018, Microsoft announced their intention to buy GitHub for $7.5 billion and people immediately started talking. With such a large investment from Microsoft, people started coming up with concerns over what they would do to make up the cost.

The news of this acquisition alone was enough for some users to switch over to competitors like GitLab. The user community put a lot of trust into GitHub and some of them just didn't have the same level of trust in Microsoft. This would give Microsoft access to a lot of important data. Companies like Google host code on GitHub. Critics also wondered how Google would feel with Microsoft having access to their code.

In October 2018, the European Union regulators approved the acquisition. Finally, on October 26, Microsoft announced the completion of the deal and officially acquired the world's largest host of source code.

The Early Forecast for GitHub

At the time, no one really knew what to expect from Microsoft acquiring GitHub. The internet being the internet, everyone was an expert on the topic. Some people went to extremes accusing Microsoft of destroying everything they touched. Most of this pushback came from those who disliked Microsoft in general.

For a snapshot of the negative sentiment at the time, check out this Reddit thread or this one. You may note a few recurring themes: lack of trust in Microsoft, fear GitHub gets shut down or ruined, worries about being force fed advertisements.

Many others just wanted to wait it out and see what happened.

Some of the concerns are justifiable. In the past, Microsoft didn't have the best reputation regarding open source. They were very open and publicly spoke negatively against it. In fact, in 2001, their then-CEO famously called Linux a "cancer." Naturally, many people wondered what Microsoft's motives were after speaking out against open source so much in the past.

Concerns about what Microsoft was planning to do with the data also surfaced. GitHub built a huge community that hosted a large amount of source code. Microsoft now owned the entire platform where the code was hosted. Because of the investment Microsoft made, concerns about whether the company would try to monetize Github were well-founded.

However, there were many others who were optimistic about the deal. GitHub wasn't doing great from a profitability standpoint, and Microsoft could help turn things around. GitHub would gain a huge amount of resources in this deal, which could mean good things for growth and a bright future for GitHub.

Further, Microsoft's negative opinion of open source seems to be a thing of the past. Microsoft has done a ton to embrace open source and Linux over the past few years. Events like the development of WSL — Windows Subsystem for Linux — and myriad of Microsoft open source projects help drive this point home.

Even Steve Ballmer, the former CEO who called Linux cancer has since claimed he "loved" a SQL for Linux announcement. Additionally, Microsoft stated that GitHub would retain its independence and remain an open platform.

What Actually Happened After Microsoft Acquired GitHub

Almost a year after the deal closed and Microsoft having acquired GitHub, we have the benefit of perspective.

Let's start with the fear of Microsoft picking apart or ruining GitHub: it did not happen. It has been almost a year and GitHub is still going strong. They had 37 million users as of May 2019. To be fair, this concern might be a little too soon to dismiss, but things look good. No major changes have occurred that have fundamentally shifted what the platform is. GitHub has remained intact and running smoothly.

Moving on to those who were afraid of Microsoft and their past with open source. The good news is that Microsoft has been true to their word GitHub still operates autonomously. GitHub continues to have its own conferences and events too.

Microsoft has made some small changes to better integrate with GitHub. For example, users can leverage Azure Active Directory to access the platform. A new Visual Studio subscription was also announced that will give access to GitHub Enterprise for Microsoft's Enterprise Agreement customers. Finally, the Azure Boards app will be available on GitHub's marketplace. These changes are bringing GitHub and Microsoft closer together while keeping everything intact. Most importantly, GitHub looks, feels, and operates much like it did before.

What about those people worried about their data? Not much in the way of changes there either. One could even make the argument that access to Microsoft resources will make the data more secure. Of course, there will always be those who claim we don't know what Microsoft does behind closed doors.

There has even been a (gasp) reduction in price since the Microsoft purchase. Unlimited private repositories are now free on GitHub. The same plan used to cost $7 per month.

Looking forward, given the traction Azure is gaining with cloud-native projects, it makes sense that Microsoft continues to support GitHub's growth. There are a lot of synergies between the two platforms.

Final Thoughts

There was plenty to talk when the GitHub acquisition occurred. Many were fearful. Some may have just been averse to change. Others believed Microsoft purchasing the struggling (from a profits standpoint) platform could be good for all involved. To date, the latter camp seems to be closest to correct. Microsoft hasn't broken GitHub. The platform is still open, popular, and useful. It's also growing. There are no signs there were plans to acquire and close the platform.

In fact, it appears Microsoft is motivated to grow GitHub and further embrace open source. We'll see more of this progress in the next few months with GitHub Universe in November. If the trends hold, expect GitHub to remain the platform we know, with a little more dash of Microsoft flair.


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