Should developers continue to worry about Microsoft’s plans for GitHub?

Anthony Calamito
© Shutterstock /tomertu

Microsoft has an excellent opportunity in front of them and the GitHub acquisition shouldn’t be viewed in a vacuum. Continuing to find ways to give back to the community will prove to be invaluable for Microsoft in winning over the hearts and minds of skeptical developers.

Next month marks a critical milestone in Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of GitHub, as the European Union is set to vote on the deal.

When the deal was first announced earlier this summer, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella outlined three primary focus areas for Github: Empower the developer at every stage, keeping GitHub open. Accelerate enterprise use of GitHub through direct sales and channel partners. And bring Microsoft developer tools and services to new audiences.

The announcement generated mixed reactions. Wall Street and the business community mostly favored the deal. The developer community’s reaction was a bit more tepid.

What do developers think of Microsoft buying GitHub?

Some in the developer community saw the acquisition as Microsoft further embracing open source, while others feared they would be bombarded by the Microsoft corporate marketing machine immediately jumped. Many of these developers jumped ship to GitHub competitors like GitLab.

It is worth mentioning there has been a noticeable spike in GitLab usage since Microsoft announced its intention to acquire GitHub. GitLab is aggressively courting potentially queasy developers currently using GitHub.

Obviously, the jury is still out on this one, and the debate will rage on with developers.  There are clear benefits in Microsoft’s ability to drive more users to GitHub. A larger developer community attracts more skills, and more users in GitHub can potentially solve more problems faster.

The naysayers see this as Microsoft invading the open source world, taking one of the last sanctums of open source and destroying it. They are taking what was open, closing it and make it part of a paid-for technology stack.

The emotions around this will continue to run high until the acquisition closes and Microsoft unveils official plans and potential product offering.

There are several different models for success that Microsoft can follow in developing best-of-breed products on top of — and while staying true to — an open source model. The first is of course Linux. Today, Linux is as pervasive as any other technology in the data center.  Thanks to open source’s ease of access, flexibility, security and accountability, many companies are able to get to market with new capabilities faster than they otherwise could have.

SEE ALSO: Microsoft joins Open Invention Network: New age of open source for the tech giant?

What happens next?

Reading the tea leaves, Microsoft has an excellent opportunity in front of them and the acquisition shouldn’t be viewed in a vacuum. Nat Friedman is a solid choice to lead GitHub once the acquisition closes. He’s an open source veteran and a critical figure in the developer community, having built incredibly successfully offerings for developers while leading Xamarin. Microsoft could have very easily appointed a lifelong suit and tie for this position. That would have been a mistake.

Combined with LinkedIn, and now GitHub, Microsoft can potentially gain a deeper understanding of developers and challenges they face on a daily basis. Some will see it as a negative that Microsoft is the proprietary owner of the world’s most extensive database of developer resumes. But if they take the right steps and apply the right technologies to analyze data, Microsoft could identify large-scale trends and patterns affecting developers much faster than anyone else.

Every acquisition in every industry will result in some loss of customers. You won’t please everyone all of the time. The key to winning in a newly combined entity is creating value and communicating that value to customer and prospects as quickly as possible.

There is an enormous amount of pride in the GitHub community. Harnessing that pride and continuing to find ways to give back to the community will prove to be invaluable for Microsoft in winning over the hearts and minds of skeptical developers.


Anthony Calamito

Anthony Calamito is Chief Geospatial Officer of Boundless, a GIS platform company.

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3 years ago

Now that money is’n more a problem, they should allow to create private repositories for free.