Microsoft acquired GitHub recently, the prominent software development platform, for a whopping $7.5 billion. According to Microsoft, the agreement will empower developers, speed GitHub’s growth and expand Microsoft’s services to new audiences.
While Microsoft has done its best to quell worries about GitHub’s future, many developers are still a bit nervous about what the acquisition means for the platform that has become a staple for them.
The company acknowledged the responsibility it’s taking on by acquiring GitHub and promised to retain its developer-first philosophy. GitHub will still operate independently, and developers will still be able to use the programming languages, tools and operating systems they want and use their code on any operating system, any cloud, and any device.
“Microsoft is a developer-first company, and by joining forces with GitHub, we strengthen our commitment to developer freedom, openness, and innovation,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said. “We recognize the community responsibility we take on with this agreement and will do our best work to empower every developer to build, innovate and solve the world’s most pressing challenges.”
Why Did Microsoft Acquire GitHub?
In the past, Microsoft has come out against the idea of open-source software. It directly threatened the company’s business model, which relied on selling proprietary software, such as Windows.
Recently, however, that way of doing business has become less feasible. Challenges such as open-source projects and Apple’s decision to make its operating system updates free have threatened Microsoft’s proprietary software.
Nadella has taken a different approach than his predecessors since taking over as the company’s CEO. He’s invested heavily in open-source technology, which seems to be a primary reason for this acquisition.
From GitHub’s side of the deal, while it had a strong product and a loyal user base, it struggled in some other areas. It’s run into leadership and financial issues in recent years, and likely hopes the Microsoft deal will be the fix to those problems.
Following the acquisition, GitHub’s current CEO Chris Wanstrath will become a Microsoft technical fellow. He also emphasized the tool’s developer-first ethos in his statements about the agreement.
“I’m extremely proud of what GitHub and our community have accomplished over the past decade, and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead. The future of software development is bright, and I’m thrilled to be joining forces with Microsoft to help make it a reality,” Wanstrath said. “Their focus on developers lines up perfectly with our own, and their scale, tools and global cloud will play a huge role in making GitHub even more valuable for developers everywhere.”
What Is GitHub?
Developers certainly know what GitHub is, but for much of the rest of the public, its identity remains fuzzy. Essentially, it’s a platform for hosting software code. It has an emphasis on open-source projects, those for which the source code is freely available for viewing, editing, and redistribution.
GitHub revolves around Git, a system that tracks changes large groups of developers have made in software code. GitHub aims to make this collaboration easier by providing places for discussions and sharing materials. It also incorporates pull requests, a way for developers to submit changes to a product that have become prevalent in the coding world.
Over the years, GitHub has become the world’s leading open-source software development tool due to its ability to help developers learn, collaborate and become more productive.
Although GitHub, Microsoft, and some developers have predicted a rosy outlook for both companies, some open-source advocates aren’t so sure. They fear Microsoft’s acquisition will spell the end of GitHub — or, at least, that of its reign as the world’s foremost open-source platform. By and large, the software development world is now just waiting to see what happens following the acquisition.
One thing’s for sure — if GitHub goes downhill, there will be plenty of other platforms eager to take its place. The open-source movement will undoubtedly live on. Just in case things do go south, here are several alternatives to look into.
Best GitHub Alternatives
If you’re a developer who’s frightened by the Microsoft deal, you might already be starting to look for alternatives, just in case the worst happens. If so, here are some of your top choices.
For many developers, GitLab leads the pack for possible GitHub replacements. It’s an open-source software itself, and it has a look and feels that’s fairly similar to that of GitHub.
GitLab has even created a tool to make it easier to migrate projects from GitHub to its platform in response to the current situation.
You can use GitLab on your server or use the company’s hosting service, which costs between $4 and $99 per user per month, depending on the number of features you want. You can also run it on other cloud servers.
SourceForge is a free Git repository hosted on Apache Allura, another open-source software platform, with more than 3.7 million registered users. On SourceForge, you can choose between various version control systems: Git, Subversion, and Mercurial.
It also has a tool for importing GitHub repositories and a recently redesigned interface.
BitBucket is a version control repository hosting service from enterprise software company Atlassian. It’s popular among larger enterprises, but you don’t have to be a big company to use it. Teams of under five can use it for free, while larger plans cost between $2 and $5 per user per month. You can also deploy BitBucket on a local server, the cloud or via Atlassian’s data center.
Because it’s an Atlassian project, you can easily integrate other software from the company, such as HipChat and Jira, with it. The platform also lets you push files using any Git client or command line and has features such as code search, pull requests, issue tracking, smart mirroring and flexible deployment models.
4. Apache Allura
Apache Allura has a range of software project collaboration tools, including code repository, pull requests, issue tracking, syntax highlighting, discussion forums and much more. It’s self-hosted on an instance of Allura and is itself open-source.
RhodeCode is an open-source platform that offers unified support of Git, Subversion, and Mercurial. You can use either the free version or the enterprise version, which comes with tool integrations, corporate authentication, and customer support.
This platform has a highly advanced permission system and is available for local installation on your server. You can review code either by pull request or commit-by-commit.
HelixTeamHub is a source-code repository from PerForce, which recently acquired open-source project platform Deveo. It also supports Git, Subversion and Mercurial repositories and offers various collaboration tools, including Kanban boards, wikis and merge request code review.
In addition, it offers integrations with tools such as Slack, Jira, and Jenkins. Users can choose cloud hosting on the Perforce cloud or hosting it on their own servers.
GitKraken is a newer entry into the field, but it’s rapidly gaining popularity. This Git client has an attractive, user-friendly interface, it runs fast and offers features such as in-app tasks, an in-app merge tool and undo and redo buttons.
The platform is built on Electron, so you can run it natively on Windows, Mac, and Linux systems. It’s also designed to easily integrate with other repositories such as GitHub, GitLab, and Bitbucket.
What’s to Come for Microsoft and GitHub?
Microsoft’s purchase of GitHub is a sign of a significant change in thinking for Microsoft. The company has, in the past, been less than supportive of the open-source way of doing things, since they believed it threatened their business model. Recently, however, under Nadella’s leadership, that view has shifted.
With Nadella as CEO, Microsoft has released various open-source projects with a range of partner companies and has even suggested Windows itself may become open-source. Acquiring GitHub marks a point of no return for Microsoft’s foray into the open-source world. If they turn their back on that ethos now, they will lose the support of the vast majority of developers they just paid $7.5 billion to get access to.
Most developers, however, hope the acquisition won’t mean changes to the core values of GitHub. Microsoft has promised to uphold the open-source philosophy, but the GitHub user base is not going to trust the company until it sees evidence of following through on that pledge.
The stories of Microsoft’s past acquisitions may be a positive sign for the open-source community. Since it acquired LinkedIn and Minecraft, it’s changed little about them beyond integrating them with its other offerings. Minecraft is still available on Sony’s PS4, which competes with Microsoft’s Xbox One.
Perhaps the most Microsoft will do is connect GitHub with some of its own platforms, such as its development suite Visual Studio. Then again, GitHub is very different than LinkedIn or Minecraft.
If it wants to retain these skeptical developers, Microsoft is going to have to act fast and put substantial effort into keeping users on GitHub. The platform’s users have not been quiet about their distrust of Microsoft, and many have already said they plan to move to other platforms. GitLab tweeted it started seeing 10 times its typical number of daily repository migrations after the acquisition announcement.
About Author: Kayla Matthews