Microsoft will ‘lose developers for a generation’ if it stuffs up GitHub, says future CEO

Plans integration, not alteration, and promises no ‘swamp’ of ads

GitHub’s future CEO Nat Friedman has conducted a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) session and outlined a little of what Microsoft plans to do with the collaborative code locker once the acquisition is formalised and admitted that “if Microsoft screws this up, we will lose the trust of developers for a generation.”

Friedman, who was hired by Microsoft to take over the service once the acquisition closes, said: “We're committed to doing this right.”

Which means doing nothing startling.

“We are buying GitHub because we like GitHub; our plan is to continue to invest in the GitHub roadmap, and make GitHub better at being GitHub,” Friedman wrote.

That means no ads in public repos, because Friedman said Sourceforge became “a swamp of banner ads and pop ups and delayed downloads to expose users to more ads”. He added that “GitHub's clean interface and developer-centric approach can be seen in part as a reaction against Sourceforge” and suggested GitHub’s ascendency shows a no-ads approach has proven the correct approach.

Asked if Microsoft plans to do anything to the Atom text editor, given that Redmond’s Visual Studio Code is a competitor, Friedman said: “We want developers to use any editor they prefer with GitHub. So we will continue to develop and support both Atom and VS Code going forward.”

The future CEO also outlined plans to integrate Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS) with GitHub, as follows:

VSTS also has lots of functionality that's beyond version control, including CI, release management, manual test management, etc. Our plan is to continue to support both VSTS version control and GitHub, and to do the integration work so that VSTS users have a great experience, with full integration and traceability, if they choose to use GitHub for version control.

Friedman added that Microsoft’s acquisition plans seem to have gone down well, as while “the GitHub team reports that the set of users who have migrated or closed their accounts is extremely small … this is more than made up for by the surge of new signups and new interest in GitHub this week.”

Which rather puts a dampener on rival GitLab’s claim that it saw “10x the normal daily amount of repositories once news of the GitHub/Microsoft deal.

In response to a question about Microsoft’s track record of unsuccessful acquisitions, Friedman said his approach was developed because “Microsoft has learned some hard (expensive) lessons about this type of acquisition.”

“Acquisitions under the current Microsoft leadership have a good track record – Minecraft and LinkedIn are examples where Microsoft acquired a successful platform, provided the companies with the resources they needed to accelerate, then let them continue to operate independently.”

“It's working well,” he said.

And so did the AMA, which was received well by recipients.

But with the acquisition months away from closing, what Microsoft will do and how developers will react remains open to speculation.

Kathy Reid of Mycroft, an open source Siri/Alexa/Cortana-like project, wrote that the acquisition “has been met with strong opinions from around the open source community, ranging from shock and disgust to more sanguine and embracing viewpoints.”

But she also concluded that Mycroft is “not going to make any big decisions just yet.”

“We want to wait for the dust to settle and better understand what Microsoft’s plans are for GitHub. Then, we’ll look at what alternatives are available, and importantly, the costs, benefits, and risks of each option.” ®

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