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What does Microsoft’s acquisition of GitHub mean for Mycroft?

By June 4, 2018 No Comments

You might have already read the news that Microsoft is acquiring GitHub for $USD 7.5 billioncalling Nat Friedman – former Xamarin CEO, now Microsoft corporate vice president – to take the reins as CEO. Github founder Chris Wanstrath announced his resignation in August.

The announcement has been met with strong opinions from around the open source community, ranging from shock and disgust to more sanguine and embracing viewpoints.

In some ways, Microsoft’s acquisition is a natural evolution of their relationship with GitHub. Codeplex, Microsoft’s own coding platform, was sunsetted late last year, and Microsoft is now the top contributor to GitHub, with other 1000 employees making commits to GitHub repos. This follows several moves from Microsoft in recent years to embrace the open source community, including the open sourcing of the Dot Net development language, and a dedicated ‘Open source at Microsoft’ platform. Microsoft also has a strong track record of being developer-centric – characterized by then-CEO Steve Ballmer’s epic ‘Developers, Developers, Developers’ address.

At the other end of the spectrum, several developers have expressed concerns about the acquisition.

For some, having a tech giant such as Microsoft with control of a platform as ubiquitous as GitHub does not sit well, with caution being expressed at the level of control Microsoft could exert over not just the platform, but its contents. Coupled with the fact that GitHub has never turned a profit, others point to the prospect of pricing changes, or forced bundling with other Microsoft products as a possible outcome. Given the fate of Microsoft acquisitions such as Nokia Phone and Skype, others still are concerned that GitHub will be left to decay, without adequate investment. That view stands contrary to the commitments today coming from Microsoft CEO, but only time will tell.

So if people move away from GitHub, what can they move to?

The primary alternative is the GitHub competitor GitLab. As of the time of writing, the hashtag #movingtogitlab was trending on Twitter, and the platform was reporting that they were seeing 10x the normal level of activity as several companies and individuals ditch GitHub and move across. For a large organization though, such a move requires planning, dependency mapping, and often significant effort; it’s not a quick move for any development house with continuous integration and continuous development pipelines dependent on GitHub.

Another alternative is ‘self-hosting’ – where an organization hosts their own source code repository. This option comes with its own set of costs – in staff time and labor – and may not be the most appropriate option for an open source organization where there are significant contributions from an external community.

What does this mean for Mycroft?

Well, we’re not going to make any big decisions just yet. We want to wait for the dust to settle and better understand what Microsoft’s plans are for GitHub. Then, we’ll look at what alternatives are available, and importantly, the costs, benefits, and risks of each option.

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the forum.