Microsoft has reached an agreement to purchase code repository company GitHub, and developers are divided over the sale.
The deal will see Microsoft pay $7.5 billion for the company, and it is expected to close by the end of 2018.
Microsoft said the acquisition reflects the company’s ongoing movement towards open-source software.
Following the purchase, GitHub will be headed up by Xamarin founder Nat Friedman, who will report to Microsoft Cloud and AI executive vice president Scott Guthrie.
While Microsoft said it aims to preserve the open source community and enable collaboration, many prominent developers have expressed their skepticism.
Following initial reports of the acquisition, Microsoft quickly responded with a statement outlining its commitment to the deal and plans for the future.
“Going forward, GitHub will remain an open platform, which any developer can plug into and extend,” said Microsoft.
“Developers will continue to be able to use the programming languages, tools, and operating systems of their choice for their projects – and will still be able to deploy their code on any cloud and any device.”
Microsoft said it is “all-in on open source” and recognises the responsibility it has assumed in preserving content on the platform.
“We are committed to being stewards of the GitHub community, which will retain its developer-first ethos, operate independently, and remain an open platform,” it said.
“We will always listen to developer feedback and invest in both fundamentals and new capabilities.”
GitHub CEO and cofounder Chris Wanstrath will also operate as a technical fellow at Microsoft, reporting to Guthrie.
“Together, we will continue to advance GitHub as a platform loved by developers and trusted by organisations,” said Microsoft.
Wanstrath added that while critics argued that open source and business mix as well as oil and water, the developers at GitHub disagreed.
He said Microsoft has done great work with open source software.
“Their work on open source has inspired us, the success of the Minecraft and LinkedIn acquisitions has shown us they are serious about growing new businesses well, and the growth of Azure has proven they are an innovative development platform,” said Wanstrath.
“But more than that, their vision for the future closely matches our own. We both believe GitHub needs to remain an open platform for all developers.”
Data published by Google’s Felipe Hoffa showed that while developers may view Microsoft’s presence on GitHub as a bad sign for open source development, Google and Microsoft are by far the biggest contributors to GitHub’s open source repositories.
Despite Microsoft’s assurances, many developers have expressed their dissatisfaction with the acquisition.
A large number of developers started migrating projects in panic to other independent services such as GitLab, which is an open core alternative to GitHub that offers both a free and paid version.
GitLab has seen a significant spike in the number of migrations from GitHub, reaching over 13,000 projects imported in a single hour this week.
While this is relatively few – there are 80 million projects on GitHub – it reflects a shift towards other services following the news.
GitLab even pushed a 75% discount for new users who helped the #movingtogitlab phrase trend on Twitter, and provided a walkthrough for migrating from GitHub.
One of the reasons developers may be wary of Microsoft’s involvement in GitHub is its past battles with open source software.
In 2001, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer labelled Linux a “cancer” and expressed his distaste for open source software.
While the company may have changed its approach in the years since, developers may remain anxious about the potential changes the deal could bring.
It also remains unclear how Microsoft will curate controversial repositories on the platform, such as the DeepFakes facial replacement application or emulators which allow for Xbox games to be pirated and played on PC.
GitHub is also a popular code repository for blockchain development projects, and is used by Ethereum and Bitcoin developers for easy collaboration.
Blockchain developers build decentralised platforms, and the acquisition of GitHub by a major technology company has caused certain developers to look to other services.
Bitcoin core developer Wladimir van der Laan called for the migration of the BTC repository, predicting that the acquisition would eventually lead to GitHub becoming obsolete.
“I expect this is the beginning of a long painful road… toward obsolescence, possibly ending the same way as codeplex did,” he said.
“Many Bitcoin core contributors already preferred moving to independently-hosted infrastructure in the long run. This may or may not speed it up.”