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Details Scant on How Microsoft's Acquisition of GitHub Will Affect .NET Coders

Visual Studio and .NET-centric developers are no doubt waiting to see how today's news that Microsoft will acquire open source giant GitHub will affect their day-to-day coding, but there is already no shortage of strong opinions being voiced.

There were few details available today on how the $7.5 billion buyout (with Microsoft stock) of GitHub will affect the .NET ecosystem and Visual Studio tooling.

One thing likely to occur is greater integration of that tooling with the GitHub platform, perhaps modeled after last month's news that Visual Studio App Center, the cloud-based lifecycle management service for mobile and other apps, has partnered with the GitHub development platform for continuous integration (CI) and other services.

Microsoft has other ties to GitHub also, which might serve as examples of how the two ecosystems can work together. For example the GitHub for Visual Studio 2.3 extension from GitHub Inc. was recently updated, letting Visual Studio developers connect to repositories stored in the popular software development platform, home of most open source projects.

It provides functionality such as: one-click cloning of repositories; creating GitHub repositories; creating Gists (code snippets); publishing code to GitHub; creating and viewing pull requests from within the IDE; and more.

Meanwhile, developer reaction to today's news -- perhaps the biggest-yet example of the new, open source-friendly Microsoft -- was mixed. The news evoked some skepticism among developers and brought up ghosts of Microsoft's past.

CEO Satya Nadella, under whose leadership the company has made the most progress in its new direction, once again hammered home the company's modern philosophy.

"And Microsoft is all-in on open source," he said in a blog post today. "We have been on a journey with open source, and today we are active in the open source ecosystem, we contribute to open source projects, and some of our most vibrant developer tools and frameworks are open source. When it comes to our commitment to open source, judge us by the actions we have taken in the recent past, our actions today, and in the future."

However, some developers on Hacker News and Reddit (both social coding sites garnered more than 600 comments on the issue) still seem to be judging the company on its distant past.

"Whether or not you like MS tools , you will get some 'Open in Visual Studio' button, send in 'Microsoft Team' buttons etc... and probably more stuff like this that most people didn't wanted in the first place," read a Hacker News comment. "This is really a terrible day for Open Source."

Another comment responding to a different point about the company's new direction said: "It's a fair point but I still cannot read this without thinking of someone saying 'yeah I did some things in the past but I've totally changed I promise. Look, for the whole past week I've been really nice to people haven't I?' "

However, much of the criticism focused on more relevant present-day issues, such as corporate consolidation and the developer ecosystem having too many eggs in one basket.

"An independent player just got gobbled up by a major one, once again the tech world consolidates..." read another Hacker News comment.

"I don't mind that it's Microsoft," read a Reddit comment. My problem is any wide reaching tech company that acquires GitHub is going to have conflicts of interest."

Others defended the company's new direction and recent behavior. "I can understand those concerns, but what can they do to convince you they have changed?" read one Hacker News comment.

Microsoft, meanwhile, says it's empowering developers with the acquisition, with Nadella outlining three key opportunities going forward:

  • First, we will empower developers at every stage of the development lifecycle – from ideation to collaboration to deployment to the cloud. Going forward, GitHub will remain an open platform, which any developer can plug into and extend. 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.
  • Second, we will accelerate enterprise developers' use of GitHub, with our direct sales and partner channels and access to Microsoft's global cloud infrastructure and services.
  • Finally, we will bring Microsoft's developer tools and services to new audiences.

He also promised to be a responsible steward of GitHub and its community, "which will retain its developer-first ethos, operate independently and remain an open platform. We will always listen to developer feedback and invest in both fundamentals and new capabilities."

When the acquisition closes this year, Nadella said it will be led by Nat Friedman, a well-known leader in the open source space and founder of Xamarin, which Microsoft also acquired.

Chris Wanstrath, Github CEO and co-founder, said in his own blog post: "So as we look to the next decade of software development and beyond, we know it’s all about the developer. And as we’ve gotten to know the team at Microsoft over the past few years through collaborating on projects from Git LFS to Electron, we’ve learned that they agree. 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."

GitHub has run its Web-based hosting service and open source code repository -- relying on the Git version control system -- for 10 years, boasting that more than 1.8 million businesses and organizations use the platform.

Microsoft said more than 28 million developers collaborate on the platform, which hosts more than 85 million code repositories.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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