4 min read

Yesterday, GitHub, a platform to build and share software, announced it will give users of its free plan, an access to unlimited private repositories. The platform initially had a major drawback that software projects weren’t visible to the broader public and were shared only with a handful of pre-defined collaborators, specifically, the users who paid.

With this new update, developers can now use GitHub for their private projects with up to three collaborators per repository, and for free. A lot of developers want to use private repositories to apply for a job, try something out in private before releasing it publicly, or work on a side project. All this is now possible with the new update. No changes have been made to public repositories, they are still free and include unlimited collaborators.

A good indication for Microsoft?

This news sounds like a good indication for Microsoft as it closed its acquisition of GitHub last October, with former Xamarin CEO Nat Friedman as GitHub’s new CEO. Though few developers were rather nervous about this deal they eventually came to terms with it. Also, GitHub’s model for monetizing the service is different from Microsoft’s. As Microsoft focuses on larger enterprises to use the service instead of smaller teams, this new change in strategy could give Microsoft a much better competitive position against rival services like BitBucket and GitLab. Last year, in June, during a Reddit AMA, GitHub’s new chief Nat Friedman was asked if Microsoft ever planned to make private repositories free. Friedman said at that time, “It’s too soon for me to know the answer to that. We want GitHub to be accessible to everyone in the world, and for everyone to have an opportunity to be a developer.”

A great news for GitHub users

As private repositories on free accounts are limited to three collaborators a project, this might work well for a smaller project like a team competing in a hackathon. But it isn’t well-suited for commercial usage. It could also be a bit risky for the company, as the existing paid users might not be much happy with this move. Earlier, user’s incomplete projects were open to all. However, with this new update, users can easily cover it up under the name of private repos. Will this affect GitHub’s open culture?

Users have given mixed reactions to this news. Few users are wondering if Microsoft would become more powerful after this latest move as they will have a stronger social graph. One of the users commented on HackerNews, “Microsoft has both LinkedIn and GitHub, meaning they have the social graph of the government, business, and the technology spheres. That social graph is arguably even more valuable in terms of revenue opportunities than Facebook’s. Direct revenue of LinkedIn and GitHub might as well be irrelevant.” 

Another user commented, “And Microsoft is in good relationship with the government and agencies. Guess how valuable is that data for them. And guess what they want… Private code to know what people are working on.” This move has now led a few paid users to move away from paying. But most of the users are happy and excited about this news.

As this news is already creating some buzz, the competition between GitHub and other similar platforms is going to be tough. One of the users (from GitLab) commented,“ I like to think that increased competition from us (GitLab) contributed to this change, we recently passed 10m repositories on GitLab.com. At GitLab we think that repositories will become a commodity and we’re focussing on making a single application for the entire DevOps lifecycle. I think Microsoft will try to generate revenue with people using Azure more instead of paying for repos.”

GitHub also announced its new product, GitHub Enterprise which combines Enterprise Cloud and Enterprise Server. GitHub Inc. said in a post,”Organizations that want the flexibility to use GitHub in a cloud or self-hosted configuration can now access both at one per-seat price.” These products can be securely linked and provide a hybrid option with GitHub Connect which would help developers to work seamlessly.

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