Microsoft acquires GitHub for $7.5 billion

Chris Wanstrath in 2010
Chris Wanstrath in 2010

The announcement arrived of the agreement that sees Microsoft buy the hosting service for software projects GitHub for $7.5 billion in Microsoft stock. The rumors of the deal begun last week but two years ago Microsoft had already attempted the acquisition.

GitHub is a hosting service for software projects that use the Git distributed version control software, one of the inventions of Linus Torvalds, famous above all for being the father of the Linux operating system. The company behind the service was founded in 2008 with its office in San Francisco, initially as Logical Awesome and since 2010 as GitHub, Inc. rapidly achieving great success.

The possibility to manage group development of software projects led to a significant growth of GitHub over the years. In particular, many projects with free / open source licenses used this service, which also allows visitors to download updated software sources to compile them on their computer. However, the service doesn’t require the hosted software to have a license of that type so it’s always better to check what can be downloaded and/or modified.

Now even large companies are using GitHub and the value of the company that owns the service has increased significantly to reach 2 billion dollars in 2015. However, despite the 27 million developer profiles and over 80 million project repositories of all the types in part with paid plans the company hasn’t yet declared any profits.

Chris Wanstrath (photo ©Dave Fayram), one of GitHub’s founders and the company’s interim CEO, managed the sale to Microsoft. Now his place will be taken by Nat Friedman in agreement with Microsoft. According to some statements made to Bloomberg, the sale was preferred to the public offer thanks to the good impression made by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Surely Satya Nadella is the great protagonist of the changes in recent years in Microsoft but are those enough to convince developers to stay on GitHub? The company has a still negative reputation among the ones dealing with free / open source software and the fact that in recent days there was a peak of projects moving to GitLab, one of the services alternative to GitHub, is a clear signal.

The clash between Microsoft and free software, especially Linux, was particularly harsh during the years when Steve Ballmer was Microsoft CEO. Ballmer stated that Linux was a cancer and also communist. Satya Nadella made virtually opposite statements but it remains difficult to trust his company.

Even in recent years, Microsoft forced Android device manufacturers to pay royalties by threatening lawsuits for alleged violations of Microsoft patents whose details are kept confidential. A lot of people think that what Microsoft is doing is patent trolling, the practice of using patents only to get payments that way and we’re talking about billions of dollars.

The announcement and subsequent statements from Microsoft focus on developers. The company made its fortune as a software vendor but the MS-DOS operating system was purchased from another producer and given the finishing touches to be licensed to IBM for its PCs. Perhaps Satya Nadella is thinking of trying that path again with the projects on GitHub.

The first reactions clearly show that Microsoft still has to work hard to win the trust of the developers who are – still – on GitHub. The statements made in recent years by Satya Nadella are not enough. The North world of free / open source software remembers.

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