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Microsoft Acquires GitHub - Is This A Good Thing?

Greg Mooney| June 06 2018

| IT insights


GitHub is being acquired by Microsoft. Is it time for developers to panic and export their repositories to another product or can Microsoft be trusted?

Not much is sacred in the world of software development, concepts, ideas, technology all ebb and flow, entire standards are tossed aside. Progress, one might say, is the only holy thing. But there is another: open source. And now, that holy cow is being threatened.

On June 4, 2018, Microsoft announced that it will be acquiring GitHub for approximately $7.5 billion. The response has been quite the uproar, to say the least. From software professionals ripping the cat stickers off their laptops, to developers of open source projects cringing in disgust, devs are not taking the news lightly.

Microsoft’s Shady Past with Open Source

The problem is that Microsoft has a tarnished past when it comes to open source. That’s not to say they haven’t tried to fix that image over the past few years with Satya Nadella at the helm. Still, there are many who lost all trust in Microsoft years ago in the Steve Ballmer years and refuse to let Microsoft regain that trust. We all remember Microsoft’s position on Linux all those years ago.

However, this is only part of the argument against the acquisition. We live in an age where big corporations struggle to do the right thing in the face of capital gains—assuming they ever intend to do the right thing in the first place.

The first thing that comes to mind is the ISP battle over the repeal of net neutrality. Corporate America has a serious problem with blockading the will of the people. Also, consider that open source software is inherently supposed to be open and free. Microsoft can’t just buyout GitHub without getting something in return?

Of course, Microsoft is the biggest contributor to GitHub, and any company can find and looks at public repositories already, but what about the private repos out there? What is going to stop Microsoft from peaking at your code without you knowing?

There is also the fact that Microsoft is a publicly traded company, accountable to shareholders, who want more return on their investment, whatever the cost. Public companies don't make investments out of good will, there has to be a money-making angle. That means that GitHub may, in tur,n become an outlet for advertising revenue. With all the traffic that GitHub brings, that is a very real possibility. Would that be enough to deter developers from using GitHub? We’ll have to wait and see.

Then, there are those of us who just want our free and open tools to be completely separated from the corporate, money-grubbing world. Microsoft has its own interests, so what if your repository doesn’t reflect the interests of Microsoft? Will Microsoft begin moderating GitHub and removing code they deem unsafe or unsecure? Do they have the right to do that? Unfortunately, yes, they do but whether they go down that road is yet to be seen.

Alternatives to GitHub

If you’ve decided NOPE to this news and want to import your repos to another tool like GitHub, there are plenty of alternatives you can consider. Some of them are near identical to GitHub, while others have some differences.

For instance, GitLab saw ten times the average daily amount of repositories opening up. This is a sure sign that those who do not want a Microsoft owned GitHub are flocking.

GitLab is probably the most popular alternative to Github. They advertise themselves as the best place for DevOps teams to build their software. Unlike GitHub, GitLab has an open source project called GitLab CE but also ships a closed sourced proprietary product called GitLab EE, so you can pick and choose what works best for your views.

Another notable mention is Bitbucket by Atlassian. Chances your team is already using Atlassian products like JIRA and Trello, so Bitbucket would be an obvious step for integration purposes.

For open source GitHub alternatives, the biggest name that comes to mind is SourceForge. SourceForge had some bad PR a few years back for hosting malware, but they still are among the most popular open source projects.

Microsoft Buying GitHub is a Good Thing

Some think this acquisition is a good thing. There is a strong argument that moderating code that inspires software piracy or is detrimental to society is an awesome way to help keep us all more secure and protect the business interests of everyone. This may be true as well.

I caught up with Adam Bertram, PowerShell and Microsoft MVP and he had a positive outlook on the acquisition.

“It was only a matter of time before Microsoft got serious and I mean really serious with open source. Ever since Satya Nadella came onboard, Microsoft has been all-in on open source. As part of that effort, they've since become the biggest contributor to Github and even migrated Windows itself to Git internally. I think the move to purchase Github was the next logical step for them.”

Adam was also quick to understand the resentment from many developers, however, he believes Microsoft really is trying to move away from that shady past with open source.

“Although some may understand Microsoft from the Ballmer years, Microsoft has truly demonstrated it has changed. At this point, Microsoft is like a prisoner in front of a parole board. They truly have changed and won't commit the crime of open-source hatred again but it's up to their continued actions to prove it. If I was on the parole board, I'd release them.”

How do you feel about the GitHub acquisition? Are you leaving GitHub for another product or are you staying pat? We want to hear from you, so sound off in the comment section below.

Topics: IT insights

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Greg is a technologist and data geek with over 10 years in tech. He has worked in a variety of industries as an IT manager and software tester. Greg is an avid writer on everything IT related, from cyber security to troubleshooting.

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