A Bright Future with GitHub? Microsoft muscles in

Last Updated on December 10, 2018

Many open source developers will be downcast to learn that Microsoft is acquiring GitHub, a hugely popular software development platform.

Now, I have no personal axe to grind with Microsoft despite their chequered track record when acquiring technology companies. I remain a frequent and passionate Skype user despite Microsoft’s acquisition in 2011 and the quick conversion to Microsoft-operated supernodes. I’ve never confined myself to open source software; in my world, proprietary software has its place, and I use software which fits my specific requirements regardless of its license and cost. Frequently, open source software meets those requirements but not always.

Microsoft’s alliance and subsequent purchase of Nokia for $7.2 billion was largely dictated by Nokia’s self-inflicted howlers. While Microsoft reneged on its pledge to produce Nokia-branded mobile phones for 10 years, and axed many thousands of jobs, Nokia’s demise started years before its strategic partnership with Microsoft. Nokia’s fall from dominance was primarily a consequence of fierce competition, not meddling by Microsoft.

The jury’s still out on Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn. And for many years, their corporate investment in Facebook looked to be a shrewd move. The purchase of Xamarin was a qualified success.

How is the announced purchase of GitHub going to pan out? At first glance, it seems difficult to conceive that Microsoft is set to intentionally self-destruct GitHub. Microsoft contend they have been using open source successfully in their business for many years. It’s true they extensively use GitHub to host open source projects and development tools like Visual Studio Code, PowerShell, and Chakra Core. But their statements may cut little ice with many open source developers.

GitLab reported that 13,000 projects moved from GitHub to GitLab on the day of Microsoft’s acquisition announcement. That’s, of course, a small drop in the ocean compared to the 80 million projects currently hosted on GitHub.


Even if Microsoft turns out to be a competent steward of GitHub’s legacy, is it time to move your code repos, and if so, where? Here are credible alternative software development platforms that may become the de facto home of open source software development.

Alternatives to GitHub
GitLabWeb-based Git repository manager with code reviews, issue tracking, activity feeds, wikis
BitbucketGit and Mercurial based source code management and collaboration solution in the cloud
FossilSimple, high-reliability, distributed software configuration management system

UPDATE – GitLab Ultimate and Gold are now free for educational institutions and open source projects.

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