Microsoft & Github — Embracing the Open Source Developer

Microsoft Purchases GitHub

This article was originally posted on Medium.

Microsoft has always been passionate about owning the developer. Sometimes passionate to the point of "what the ?" kinds of moments. But if you think that Microsoft’s $7.5B purchase of Github is insane, you may want to think again: it just might end up being insanely great.

Under new leadership, Microsoft has done a 180 degree turn with respect to open source. Consider:

  • The company most famous for their closed ecosystem based on .Net and Visual Studio now owns the most popular open source IDE on the market: VS Code, which is available as open source on Github and supports JavaScript, C++, Java, Python, PHP, Go, and oh yeah, .Net runtimes too.
  • Microsoft had more open source contributors in 2017 than any other Fortune 100 company, including Google.
  • Microsoft has been extending Github with some great functionality for years. Don’t believe it? Have a look at the Programs Office initiative that describes many of the extensions that make Github play better with larger enterprises. All of which, in turn, make enterprises more likely to let employees engage in open source initiatives.

So Microsoft, like ActiveState, has been trying to make open source easy to adopt for large enterprises.

It’s no secret that when for-profit companies wade into the open source space they set themselves up for an open source community backlash. As a 20-year veteran in the for-profit open source market, ActiveState has also been on the receiving end of some tough love from the community. But the fact remains that some enterprises just won’t adopt open source without commercial vendor backing. For example, think back to the early 90’s when Linux struggled to gain traction in the enterprise. But once Red Hat emerged as a credible commercial vendor, corporate adoption of Linux took off.

Microsoft’s acquisition of Github is not entirely without risk; while staying true to what made GitHub successful, e.g. showing an appreciation for the open source developer, it will also need to be integrated with the Microsoft ecosystem and generate enough revenues to satisfy shareholders. However, Microsoft does bring deep pockets to the table to help deal with Github’s cash burn rate due to their explosive growth.

As a veteran in the commercial open source space, ActiveState supports Microsoft’s bold acquisition and the work it will do so that “…developers can spend more time focusing on the unique problems they’re trying to solve.” — @dfunkt, A bright future for GitHub