In a move that will be sure to anger open source (or rather anti-paid software, anti-Microsoft open source) zealots, Microsoft is planning to buy GitHub.
A year ago, I mused about why Microsoft would shut down CodePlex and how the world needs competing source code repositories to be strong. I’m not the only one per this Slashdot article :
“… people have warned about GitHub becoming as large as it did as problematic because it concentrates too much of the power to make or break the open source world in a single entity, moreso because there were valid questions about GitHubs financial viability….” – Jacques Mattheij
I will be interested in seeing this play out – whether developers jump ship or not. Have all the efforts Microsoft has made in pushing towards open source be seen as genuine or will all the zealots jump ship or maybe even attack?
Microsoft’s comment about why they shut down CodePlex referred to how spammers were using CodePlex. Well, GitHub has its own features so will the ones who oppose this purchase do the same? Will they become the trolls?
I’ve often expressed concern about how Microsoft builds up and then quietly gets rid of technology. I appreciate their right to do so but for corporate developers, it’s frustrating. It has pushed many developers to leave the shadow of the “evil empire” for greener pastures. however, the hatred some developers have for Microsoft flies in the face of common sense.
Open source software suffers from the same potential stagnation or loss of support that commercial software does. In many ways it’s worse – the current state as well as future of an open source technology depends on how many people flock to it and people, yes, even developers, can be fickle. At least in commercial software, it can rely on a company’s belief in its benefits or emotional attachment to it.
GitHub’s lack of financial stability was a very big risk, especially as they encourage companies to store their commercial source there. Now that stability can be assured, in as much as it is possible.
Microsoft has made a lot of progress from its days as a “lock everything down, we don’t share” company. Some of those strides were mandated but in other cases, it was pure competitiveness. But where is OpenOffice today? It released its latest version last year but has lost a lot of its earlier momentum. Instead the focus has been on open source formats, something that Microsoft has fully supported. Microsoft has listened to many of its employees as well, releasing technologies into the open source community. But this has done little to quell its detractors.
If Google had bought GitHub, developers would rejoice but everyone would have been forced to have a Google account. If FaceBook had bought it, the loss of teens to the community might have been reversed. If Apple had bought GitHub, it would have made Tim Cook appear on more than just one network and have a huge public media splash — oh, that would have made WWDC a bigger draw. But Microsoft? Hell no.
Now is their opportunity to provide an alternative to GitHub, if, of course, they can maintain it. Or they can move back to SourceForge (although this might be akin to going to MySpace after FaceBook).