In a move that has shocked the opensource software community, Microsoft has successfully closed a deal to acquire GitHub, a hosting and software versioning control service provider, for more than $7 billion. Bloomberg reported earlier today that Microsoft and GitHub would jointly announce the deal early this week, and would be discussing the deal’s details and ramifications later on. If you’re a software developer with a GitHub account, this may be of importance to you and might even impact several opensource projects you follow or use.
The rumours of a GitHub buyout only started early last week, but it is alleged that talks have been going on in secret for a month or more. Microsoft currently uses GitHub for their versioning control services to develop Windows 10, Windows Server, and most of the company’s other products, with over 350GB of data hosted on the platform just for Windows 10 development alone. GitHub is a repository hosting service, extending the functionality of the git feature found in Linux distributions by providing remote hosting of software installations, access control to projects, bug tracking, user-driven feature requests, task and project management, and individual wikis for each project.
Microsoft’s purchase of GitHub syncs up very well with their future plans for the company as a whole. GitHub provides tens of millions of software projects with remote hosting and the ability to cheaply distribute their software among users, and Microsoft wants to become a services company that enables the rest of the computer industry to do their work more effectively. Buying GitHub not only allows them to promote integration with other Microsoft-run software and services like Azure, but it also gives them access to IP and products that GitHub has developed themselves, like the web-based Electron framework to host web applications.
According to Microsoft’s press release on the acquisition, GitHub co-founder and ex-CEO Chris Wanstrath will become a technical fellow at Microsoft and will report to GitHub’s new CEO, Nat Friedman. Under the company’s new structure, GitHub will exist under the Cloud and Artificial Intelligence wing of Microsoft, and not the Azure and Windows department.
GitHub doesn’t just host software projects. It also serves as an online user-accessible remote storage, allowing anyone to share files, code, and other media with millions of others on the internet. GitHub can be used for remote backups, storing your collection of FLAC copies of Nickelback CDs, and sharing information with others through the use of GitHub’s wiki feature. In 2014, state agents acting on behalf of the Russian government ran a DDoS attack on GitHub for their hosting of suicide manuals uploaded to the service by GitHub users. In 2015, state agents acting on behalf of the Chinese government DDoSed GitHub for hosting wikis and other user content describing methods to bypass China’s firewall and internet censorship. GitHub has also been accused in the past of supporting ISIS by allowing pro-ISIS content to be hosted on the site’s servers.
Various developer communities on Reddit and other social media are currently directing their users to competing services such as GitLab, BitBucket, and GNU Savannah, out of fear that Microsoft’s control over one of the world’s biggest repositories of the source code to competing software projects might put them at risk of being coerced into sharing the source code of competing project under the table to governments who demand it.