Microsoft (you’ve probably heard of them, they’re a gargantuan technology company founded by a guy who is now intent on giving his fortune away to make the world a better place) announced today that the rumors circulating over the past week were true, and it has committed to acquiring development platform GitHub for an all-stock deal worth $7.5 billion.

The truth is, that any time Microsoft buys anything, the howls of protest begin. The fact is that many people still live in a world from a decade ago when Microsoft was known as anti-competitive in the extreme and would do anything to avoid having to play fairly. But the Microsoft of today is a very different animal, heck, it’s CEO is the most Zen guy I know – less “The Art of War” and more “Make Love, Not War.”

But despite the fact that Microsoft has changed, many people’s view of the company has not and this morning I woke up in steamy Bangkok to claims that the sky was falling and the inevitable suggestions that everyone should immediately find alternatives and move off GitHub.


GitHub (like it’s competitors, such as BitBucket, SourceForge, and Gitea), is all about helping developers make sense of the status of their software. More specifically, GitHub allows developers to “commit” software – i.e. send it out to the world, a process that is far more complex than it sounds. When you have lots of developers working on the same code in parallel, keeping track of changes, forks and branches is a big job. This is the stuff that GitHub helps with. The company claims that more than two million “commits” (i.e. when a developer pushes code) have been made on its platform.

Being upfront about playing nicely

Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s aforementioned Zen-master CEO, front-footed the obvious criticism and told the world that:

We recognize the responsibility we take on with this agreement. We are committed to being stewards of the GitHub community, which will retain its developer-first ethos, operate independently, and remain an open platform. We will always listen to developer feedback and invest in both fundamentals and new capabilities.

As of last year, GitHub claimed 57 million repositories and the pretty impressive metric that more than 80 million projects have been run on the platform. I guess that’s what having close to 30 million developer users does – all those code monkeys are pushing stuff through Git.

Interestingly, Chris Wanstrath, GitHub’s CEO, will not be leading the company post-acquisition. Instead, Nat Friedman, who was CEO of Xamarin, another company that Microsoft acquired, will take over the reins. Interestingly enough, when Microsoft acquired Xamarin a couple of years ago, there was a similar developer groundswell of concern. As expected, however, that concern didn’t really translate into any real mass action.


Like the acquisition of Xamarin, this deal is designed to bring developers into the Microsoft fold. From there, the hope is that those same developers will be more likely to run their applications on Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform, than AWS. The idea being that if Microsoft invests in building strong integrations between Azure and GitHub, there will be enough value there to drive customers to Azure. That will certainly be the strategy, but conflating that with a “Microsoft is trying to force developers to use Azure” message, as some haters seem to be doing, is just insane.

While it seems a little bit trite, insiders at Microsoft talk about lock-in these days, not within the context of forcing people to do something, but rather making them want to do it because the offering is so strong. Lock-in by love, if you will. While love may be a strong word, it’s probably not as strong as the sort of opprobrium being thrown around by the other camp.

This is a deal that makes sense for Microsoft, it’s not negative for GitHub users, at worst it’ll be neutral and there may well be some longer-term upside for them as well.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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