Long a major hub of open source development, GitHub became part of Microsoft at the end of October 2018. Now helmed by one-time Xamarin CEO Nat Friedman, the cloud and enterprise source-management platform is making up for lost time with new features and new pricing plans.
Early in the acquisition process, Microsoft made it clear that it intended to let GitHub remain its own business, an independent subsidiary that would work with the rest of the company. That approach is nothing new for Microsoft; it’s how it manages both LinkedIn and Minecraft’s Mojang. Even so, ensuring that GitHub remains independent is essential for it to keep its place as a neutral hub for open source development, where individuals and companies share code with the community.
The change GitHub needed
Before the acquisition, GitHub was essentially leaderless; the previous CEO was in the process of resigning, and had been for some time. That uncertainty reflected in the product. Under Friedman, there’s more direction and a stronger focus on its users.
Although many observers expected GitHub to double down on Microsoft’s traditional enterprise users, instead it’s refocused on its open source community. That’s not surprising, because one of the key reasons for Microsoft buying the service was ensuring that it would have a long-term future as a hub for Microsoft’s own open source projects.
Microsoft had taken such a dependency on GitHub for .Net and for its languages that GitHub had become one of the key tools for its own developer community. By purchasing GitHub, Microsoft could ensure that GitHub didn’t run out of cash and that its own open source projects would be protected.