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Why GitHub will still be at the top

Microsoft recently announced that it is buying GitHub for $7.5 billion dollars, and predictably, there’s a developer backlash. Microsoft’s history with acquisitions has not been good, notably Skype, Wunderlist and Nokia. However, in recent years that has not been the case.

Satya Nadella has been an incredible game changer for Microsoft. Starting from joining hands with Linux foundation to launching Microsoft first ever laptops. Since Nadella joined Microsoft, stocks of the company have doubled.

When Microsoft bought LinkedIn, the tech community agreed with Microsoft’s vision that this acquisition will help both LinkedIn and Microsoft with the access to all the professional profiles of the people around the globe. Then why the backlash with them acquiring GitHub?

People in the Open Source community are saying “RIP GitHub” and talking of switching to GitLab. The main concerns raised are that:

  1. Microsoft will kill/damage GitHub.
  2. GitHub freebies like Student Developer Pack would no longer be available.
  3. Microsoft will have access to our “private code”.

The so-called “benefits” of GitLab are stated that it is free, it has more features, you are able to easily import your GitHub Projects, and most importantly that you can self-host GitLab. Let us back up a little bit. Why did people not take a look at GitLab before the news of GitHub’s acquisition?

GitLab has been around since 2012 and has gained the attention of people who want to use services like private repositories for free. Most of the organizations who have their repositories on GitLab have them as Private. This means no one else can see their code. This has been the trend of GitLab users and because of this, it has been hard for GitLab to create a community like GitHub where everyone wants to share their code instead of just storing it privately. One of the primary reasons why GitHub managed to have a 27 Million strong community is because people started using GitHub as a place to show off their projects and not merely as an online git storage facility. The fact that one has to pay to have private repositories deterred people from making private repos and encouraged them to participate in the open source movement by open sourcing their own code.

GitHub came into the market in 2008 and took almost 8-9 years to develop this vibrant community that we see around it. In fact, for most people, GitHub was the gateway to Git and Version Control Systems and not the other way round.

Further, GitHub has pumped in a tremendous amount of money and effort in building open source tools, the most notable projects being - Jekyll (Static Site Generator), Atom (Text Editor), Electron (JS library to build Desktop apps), the last of which was game changer in how desktop apps are built. GitHub has never been in profit since they came in the industry and have been burning cash ever since. Such a model was clearly not sustainable and either GitHub had to be acquired by some corporation or be shut down. The fact that they managed to be bought by Microsoft which vehemently opposed Open Source until a few years ago, for a whopping $7.5 Billion is something to reckon.

Coming to the concerns raised regarding the acquisition, ever since Microsoft acquired LinkedIn around two years ago, nothing has changed for the worse. Rather LinkedIn’s user experience has improved and the website has become faster than before. Microsoft did not create any new paid services or make free services as paid. Nothing has changed with respect to the core essence of LinkedIn. So it just makes us wonder why are thinking that bad things will happen to GitHub post-acquisition.

In the past few years, Microsoft has been one of the leaders in Open Source. In the past year, they have been the largest code contributor on GitHub. They open sourced Visual studio code which is now being used by millions of developers and has left other editors behind in terms of usability and features. Microsoft also recently moved all of their documentation to GitHub allowing developers to contribute to it. Other notable mentions include the Microsoft Edge JavaScript engine and PowerShell. Microsoft also struck a deal with Canonical to develop the Windows Subsystem for Linux on Windows 10. And Linux is now fully supported on Microsoft’s cloud platform Azure.

Microsoft new, under Satya Nadella, is much different from Microsoft old and we at Zense believe this step of acquiring GitHub will be helpful for both GitHub and the Open Source developer community at large. Even while steadily losing money over the past decade, GitHub has managed to deliver outstanding products and now with the backing of the third most valuable company, we feel that GitHub will do even better. This $7.5B acquisition validates that open source is indeed turning the way we code and is signalling that this is the new era for open source.

At Zense, GitHub is integral to our entire development workflow and we will remain using GitHub for all of the foreseeable future. With that being said, it would be interesting to see what kinds of integration Microsoft has planned for GitHub. Personally, we would like to see deeper integration with Microsoft Teams and LinkedIn.

Group Coordinator, Zense
Group Manager, Zense