GitHub CEO forks off: Nat Friedman to quit this month, replacement will report to exec behind .NET Hot Reload fiasco

Chief product officer takes over world's palatable social network


Updated GitHub CEO Nat Friedman announced today he's leaving the organization on November 15 and will be replaced by chief product officer Thomas Dohmke.

We're assured that GitHub will remain an independent outfit within Microsoft. That said, Dohmke will report to Julia Liuson, who was just made president of Microsoft’s developer division that will now oversee GitHub.

It just so happens that Liuson was, then as developer division head, understood to be behind the last-minute decision in October to remove a flagship feature from open-source .NET for the sake of Visual Studio sales. Programmers were so enraged by this attempt to strip away functionality, dubbed Hot Reload, that the decision was reversed.

And so off goes Nat

Friedman was installed as head honcho by Microsoft when it bought GitHub for $7.5bn in 2018 and was seen as a reassuring figure for developers. He was active in the Linux community since the late 1990s, was CTO of open source at Novell, co-founded Xamarin and the GNOME Foundation, held a few other roles, and was described as a trusted figure in the industry who promised, and more or less kept, GitHub's independence.

"I’m moving on to my next adventure," he said in a letter to developers. "I will become Chairman Emeritus, which fulfills my lifelong ambition of having a title in Latin. My heartfelt thanks to every Hubber and every developer who makes GitHub what it is, every day."

Friedman has been writing software since he was six years old, and graduated from MIT in 1999 after double-majoring in math and computer science. During his stint at Novell, he weaned 6,000 staff off Windows and Office machines onto SUSE and OpenOffice.

Friedman's career has taken various twists and turns, and it ultimately led to him, GNOME project co-founder Miguel de Icaza, and fellow engineer Joseph Hill forming a San Francisco startup called Xamarin. The trio had earlier grown an open-source project called Mono, which offered a cross-platform implementation of Microsoft's .NET and C#. Xamarin was a continuation of that effort, and basically allowed developers to build Mac, Android, and iOS apps.

It proved popular, deals followed with IBM and Oracle, and the startup worked closely with Microsoft. Redmond ended up buying it in 2016 for a reported $400m to $550m.

Hey, with Ballmer gone we can party again!

At Microsoft, it did seem to the Xamarin team that the Windows giant had changed its tune on open source: de Icaza told The Register at the time that the IT goliath was a "different organization" from the days of one-time CEO Steve Ballmer regarding its antipathy towards open code. Shortly after the takeover, Microsoft made Xamarin tools free and open source, and the Mono platform was re-released under the MIT license.

While at Microsoft, Friedman had time for outside interests. In 2017 he co-founded California YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard), a political advocacy group pushing for more affordable urban housing in the Golden State, and AI Grant, a non-profit research lab for developing open-source projects.

When Microsoft made the GitHub acquisition, Friedman was a good pick for CEO, since he was able to reassure developers that the platform would not be neutered or screwed over by Microsoft and, while he said he understood the "healthy skepticism" in the community, he pledged to earn programmers' trust.

In his resignation letter Friedman said Dohmke was very much in the same mold and had a great track record, pointing to his career as a coder and his work at GitHub making private repositories free for developers. "I couldn’t be more excited for the future of GitHub under his leadership," he said.

Dohmke started writing software in the 1980s and was an early Linux enthusiast. In 2011 he started HockeyApp, a tool that Dohmke and others built to help testers and programmers identify and smooth out coding blunders in iOS and Android applications.

Microsoft scooped up HockeyApp in 2014, and Dohmke transferred over to GitHub after helping lead the acquisition of the code-warehouse biz from within Redmond. He was appointed chief product officer this August.

"I cannot wait to begin this journey as GitHub’s new CEO and continue to make GitHub better for all developers," Dohmke said in a blog post.

"We will continue to operate independently as a community, platform, and business. This means that GitHub will retain its developer-first values, distinctive spirit, and open extensibility. We will always support developers in their choice of any language, license, tool, platform, or cloud."

Friedman was coy about his own future plans. He is presumably post-economic by now, and our bet is on something involving open source and startups.

"I’m moving on to my next adventure: to support, advise, and invest in the founders and developers who are creating the future with technology and tackling some of the biggest opportunities of our day," he said.

Though GitHub has survived within Microsoft during Friedman's tenure, that isn't a guarantee the situation will remain rosy. For one thing, aside from the .NET fiasco within its parent, GitHub's source-generating Copilot assistant manages to be impressive and problematic at the same time, potentially plagiarizing copyrighted code that was ingested during its training.

While GitHub is seen as the top dog, its rival GitLab is very much a thing, and developers are able to vote with their feet and shift to other platforms if unhappy. Dohmke's decisions are going to be watched closely by a lot of folks in the developer community. ®

Updated at 2240 UTC

This story was revised to include word of Julia Liuson's promotion, which we learned from an internal memo written by Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's executive veep of cloud and AI, that was passed on to us. Microsoft representatives confirmed the email's authenticity.

"I'm very pleased to announce the promotion of Julia Liuson to President, Microsoft Developer Division," wrote Guthrie.

"As part of today's changes, Thomas Dohmke, CEO of GitHub, will report to Julia going forward, as will Julia's existing DevDiv reports.

"Julia has been instrumental in Microsoft's adoption of open source, and in the transformation of Microsoft's developer strategy. As the leader of DevDiv, she helped guide the open sourcing of -NET (which now runs on every major OS platform), as well as the creation and open sourcing of Visual Studio Code (now the most popular development tool in the world)."

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • India reveals home-grown server that won't worry the leading edge

    And a National Blockchain Strategy that calls for gov to host BaaS

    India's government has revealed a home-grown server design that is unlikely to threaten the pacesetters of high tech, but (it hopes) will attract domestic buyers and manufacturers and help to kickstart the nation's hardware industry.

    The "Rudra" design is a two-socket server that can run Intel's Cascade Lake Xeons. The machines are offered in 1U or 2U form factors, each at half-width. A pair of GPUs can be equipped, as can DDR4 RAM.

    Cascade Lake emerged in 2019 and has since been superseded by the Ice Lake architecture launched in April 2021. Indian authorities know Rudra is off the pace, and said a new design capable of supporting four GPUs is already in the works with a reveal planned for June 2022.

    Continue reading
  • Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

    Plus: A drug designed by machine learning algorithms to treat liver disease reaches human clinical trials and more

    In brief Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls.

    A series of contracts and emails from eight different states revealed how Verus, an AI application developed by LEO Technologies and based on a speech-to-text system offered by Amazon, was used to eavesdrop on prisoners’ phone calls.

    In a sales pitch, LEO’s CEO James Sexton told officials working for a jail in Cook County, Illinois, that one of its customers in Calhoun County, Alabama, uses the software to protect prisons from getting sued, according to an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Continue reading
  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021