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Microsoft acquires GitHub, world’s largest coding platform

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Microsoft has closed a deal to buy code repository GitHub for an unknown sum, in what could be interpreted as a further step towards embracing open-source software.

GitHub – often described as a social network for developers – is used to host open-source code. The platform has approximately 27 million users, 1.8 million business users and 80 million repositories, making it the world’s largest source code host. It is used extensively by developers at companies including Apple, Google and Microsoft to host and collaborate on their projects.

Microsoft has confirmed that it has acquired GitHub for $7.5bn (£5.6bn) in Microsoft stock. According to Microsoft, GitHub will continue to operate independently.

 

In recent years, GitHub has been struggling with heavy losses and a nearly year-long leadership vacuum as it continues to search for a new CEO. According to Bloomberg, GitHub’s executives preferred acquisition to the option of going public and were impressed by Satya Nadella, who took over as Microsoft’s CEO in 2014.

In a press statement, Nadella commented: "We recognse the community responsibility we take on with this agreement, and will do our best work to empower every developer to build, innovate and solve the world's most pressing challenges."

Stepping away from Microsoft’s recent past – which included a bitter campaign against open-source OS Linux – Nadella has pushed the company towards greater investment in open-source technologies and cloud-based services. In 2016, Microsoft bought app development program Xamarin and open-sourced its software development kit, and partnered with Canonical to bring Ubuntu to Windows 10 - a move which has made it easier for developers to code for Linux’s Ubuntu using Microsoft’s cloud computing service, Azure.

Providing paid-for cloud services for businesses and developers could help to support Microsoft as it creeps towards open-sourcing its tools.

Already, Microsoft is among the largest contributors to GitHub, with more than 1,000 employees active on GitHub. The software giant hosts its own open-source code on the site, including code for Windows File Manager, Visual Studio Code and PowerShell.

The acquisition of GitHub could be seen as an opportunity for Microsoft to attract more developers as it continues to struggle with Apple and Google to retain developers working with the Windows API. Lack of interest from app developers is frequently cited as the main reason for the failure of the Windows Phone OS, which was discontinued in October 2017.

At present, there are few details to suggest what the acquisition could mean for GitHub's future. Reaction has been divided, with some developers – particularly open-source advocates – threatening to move to rival platforms, with others expressing concern about the acquisition given the decline of some companies (such as Skype) following their acquisitions by Microsoft.

Others argue that Microsoft is committed to embracing open-source software and that GitHub is unlikely to change drastically following the acquisition.

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