How Microsoft Acquiring GitHub is the End of an Era
Can they be stewards in the open-source era of software development?
GitHub was also talking to Google about a deal, but went with Microsoft instead. But here is the problem, GitHub inspite of all its faults and controversial issues, was an open-source brand agnostic platform. Now it isn’t.
I think TechRepublic has said it best, Microsoft wants to make Azure the default cloud for developers. The very company that once wanted to kill open-source, now wants to own it. It’s not like developers have much choice, Microsoft is one of the world’s largest open source contributor (measured, ironically, by employees on GitHub), so if there’s reason to believe the acquisition might work, there’s also reason many will migrate to competitor GitLab.
The marriage made in heaven argument says that for GitHub, Microsoft could then obviously fulfill best the conditions for it to continue to evolve. While this might be the case, it will also mean competitors for more independent devs will likely arise, and as such, it will likely mark the end of an era for software development.
Microsoft: From Enemy to Steward Of Open-Source Software Platforms
Microsoft may become a great steward for Github, but open-source needs to continue to live on that’s brand agnostic. If you are a software developer who is a Millennial or a GenZ, you’ll likely want a place that’s free from corporate and political ties or affiliations that are too strong. Microsoft could also make GitHub mediocre, due to the backlash and due to other solutions suddenly appearing to solve the need.
As TechRepublic points out, this hasn’t been the case with Microsoft’s acquisition of Mojang, makers of Minecraft; or Kaggle, a platform data science competitions, both of which have grown under Microsoft’s leadership. Microsoft is getting better at its relationship with developers and being a custodian of ecosystems. LinkedIn pretends to be a good corporate citizens, while monetizing the hell out of us. Microsoft wants to be seen as building a better world, like all of the leading high-tech and AI and cloud companies.
However if you take the data of LinkedIn and GitHub together, Microsoft could create a talent onboarding mechanism to give it an edge in the Cloud. Gone are the days of Windows, it’s now Azure that’s the lead product likely for years to come. Microsoft’s pivot to AI in the cloud has begun.
Can you fathom how complementary they are? For recruiters and hiring managers, two of the most important sources of information on a prospective developer hire are their LinkedIn profile and GitHub user profile.
Without a doubt, Microsoft will use machine learning and related technologies to link the top contributors of certain projects with the firm they work for. They will now, or could very well end up have an “inside-edge” on acquiring the top software engineering talent. Some might even call this a ridiculous advantage. GitHub is absurdly compatible with LinkedIn’s social graph and datasets here. The applications here are obvious.
If Microsoft does this right, they could own the talent funnel of AI and engineering. Microsoft needed to augment it’s brand visibility, acquiring LinkedIn and GitHub creates that, a synergy where talent itself is foundational in the corporate race to AI. Microsoft isn’t just building solutions in the Cloud, but continuing to diversify its business tentacles.
It’s not enough to ask about the Why Microsoft is Acquiring GitHub. We need to understand the end-game here. While GitHub has reportedly struggled to turn a profit this is a moral statement for Microsoft to the world: We care about developers.
In an era where Facebook employees are disgusted at what they have done and Google employees need to quit and make petitions just to signal to their leadership at how they aren’t doing the right thing with automated killing machines, Microsoft is saying essentially that we’re the good guys.
Microsoft had diversified its portfolio and business model as a hub of ecosystems. GitHub is a very valuable component of that. It needs to minimize the damage with its 24 million users. Sure, some will leave for GitLab or start their own competitor. That’s to be expected.
While CNBC reports GitHub founder Chris Wanstrath chose Microsoft because of his relationship with CEO Satya Nadella. Money talks, Microsoft paid 25 times revenue for GitHub, or $300 million, according to a person familiar with the matter. This means acquiring GitHub was part of Microsoft’s masterplan. Onboarding the best software engineers is a key component to how Azure and Microsoft’s market cap can scale. In a world of ubiquitous AI, it’s the relationships that matter, Microsoft understands this well.
This is not a brute-force GitHub, this is a sleight of hand, it’s diplomatic coercion of the most large-scale kind. We’ll acquire you but you can remain independent, is the ultimate sophistry of corporate speak as of 2018 acquisitions. We want you to trust us, so we’ll collaborate and help you grow. However in the world of actual trust with developers, that’s not how open-source platforms or consensus based systems work.