Microsoft joined the Linux Foundation nearly two years ago, and more than 15 years after former CEO Steve Ballmer labeled Linux “a cancer.” The hostility between Microsoft and Linux is well and truly over, and developers and businesses are now reacting to the new era of Microsoft acquiring GitHub. “This is pretty good news for the world of Open Source and we should celebrate Microsoft’s smart move,” says Jim Zemlin, the executive director at the Linux Foundation.
10 years ago, Zemlin was calling for Microsoft to stop secretly attacking Linux by selling patents that targeted the operating system, and he also poked fun at Microsoft multiple times over the years. “I will own responsibility for some of that as I spent a good part of my career at the Linux Foundation poking fun at Microsoft (which, at times, prior management made way too easy),” explains Zemlin. “But times have changed and it’s time to recognize that we have all grown up — the industry, the open source community, even me.”
While the Linux Foundation is clearly backing Microsoft’s acquisition of GitHub, there has been a mixed reaction in the development community. Some developers were shocked at the news, while others have welcomed the move. Most seem to accept that we’ll need to wait and see what Microsoft does with GitHub before it’s judged on the acquisition.
Nat Friedman, Microsoft’s future GitHub CEO (once the deal closes) took to Reddit yesterday to answer questions on the company’s plans. Friedman co-founded and ran Xamarin, the mobile app development software Microsoft acquired two years ago, and is well respected in the open source community. Answering fears about Bing, Skype, or even Office integration ruining GitHub, Friedman is clear. “We are not buying GitHub to turn it into Microsoft; we are buying GitHub because we believe in the importance of developers, and in GitHub’s unique role in the developer community,” explains Friedman. “Our goal is to help GitHub be better at being GitHub, and if anything, to help Microsoft be a little more like GitHub.”
Friedman also addressed reports that rival GitLab has seen a 10x increase in the number of developers moving their repositories to the service since the GitHub acquisition news broke. “Developers are independent thinkers and will always have a healthy degree of skepticism, but I admit I was sad to see that some felt compelled to move their code. I take the responsibility of earning their trust seriously,” says Friedman. “That said, the GitHub team reports that the set of users who have migrated or closed their accounts is extremely small, and this is more than made up for by the surge of new signups and new interest in GitHub this week.”
Friedman also reassured developers that ads won’t start appearing on their repositories, and that Microsoft will “continue to develop and support both Atom and VS Code going forward.” The Reddit AMA seemed to help allay some developer’s fears. “As a developer I really distrust Microsoft and this acquisition scares the hell out of me,” says one developer in the Reddit thread. “That being said, this AMA has helped a decent bit.”