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In one of the most interesting developments in tech for some time (and that’s saying something), Bloomberg are reporting that Microsoft has acquired GitHub. Spokespeople from Microsoft and GitHub declined to comment when asked by Bloomberg, but the deal could be announced later today.

With 24 million users on the platform, this move could well have an impact across the software world. However, while it may seem surprising, it isn’t perhaps quite as shocking as it immediately appears. Microsoft has embraced open source in the last few years; the company is one of the top contributors to the site, according to The Verge.

When were rumors of Microsoft’s intention to buy GitHub first reported?

Reports of Microsoft’s intention to acquire GitHub were first made in Business Insider just a few days ago, at the beginning of June 2018. According to the website, sources ‘close to both companies’ said that serious talks have been happening for the past few months. Informal discussions on the issue have taken place over the last few years – it’s only now that they have become more serious. With GitHub’s CEO Chris Wanstrath set to leave in August, it makes sense for Microsoft to take the opportunity to make a move to acquire the company now.

Why would Microsoft want to acquire GitHub?

Microsoft has been playing catch up with the open source revolution. It’s attitude towards open source has changed significantly in recent years. It has open sourced a growing number of its tools, including PowerShell, Visual Studio Code and .NET. Back in 2001, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer called Linux a “cancer” (he did later retract his statement). Today, under Satya Nadella, it’s a completely different story. For that reason, the acquisition of GitHub represents an important step in the evolution of Microsoft’s relationship to the open source world.

There are questions around how much Microsoft is really committed to open source. To cynics, embracing open source is as much about business than values. Billion dollar acquisitions don’t exactly scream ‘free and open software’.

However, it is still early days. How the acquisition unfolds, how it will be received by the developer community will be interesting. Whatever you think of the Microsoft’s move, GitHub isn’t exactly thriving from a business perspective; GitHub lost $66 million in three quarters in 2016.

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Co-editor of the Packt Hub. Interested in politics, tech culture, and how software and business are changing each other.


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