Google acknowledges it missed out on buying GitHub instead of Microsoft

Earlier this month Microsoft bought GitHub for a mighty $7.5 billion. Just ahead of the acquisition, rumours were floating around that Google was the one interested in snapping up GitHub, even though that reality never materialised.

Google acknowledges it missed out on buying GitHub instead of Microsoft

Now though, it appears that Google was indeed eyeing up GitHub and one company executive is slightly miffed that the search giant missed out. As reported by Bloomberg, speaking at a Fortune Magazine event, Google’s head of cloud Diane Greene admitted that “I wouldn’t have minded buying them, but it’s okay”.

While not the salacious grovelling details you’d probably have liked to hear from a Google executive over missing out on the deal, any acknowledgement of it is interesting enough. Greene also expressed concerns about Microsoft taking control of GitHub, echoing those of many in the development community. “I really hope Microsoft can keep them totally neutral”, she said – failing to acknowledge the irony of Microsoft being no worse a candidate then Google.

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After rumours began circulating over the weekend, it’s now official: Microsoft has acquired GitHub, the open-source coding website popular with many software developers.

In a blog post, GitHub co-founder and CEO Chris Wanstrath wrote: “I am very excited to announce that Microsoft is acquiring GitHub and expect the agreement to close by the end of the year. While it will still take a few months to finalise, we wanted to share the news as soon as we were able.

“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…we’ve learned that they agree…their vision for the future closely matches our own. We both believe GitHub needs to remain an open platform for all developers. No matter your language, stack, platform, cloud, or license, GitHub will continue to be your home — the best place for software creation, collaboration, and discovery.”

Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella added: “We are committed to being stewards of the GitHub 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.”

Once the acquisition closes, GitHub will be led by CEO Nat Friedman, founder of Xamarin, who will continue to report to Microsoft Cloud + AI Group executive vice president Scott Guthrie; Wanstrath will be a technical fellow at Microsoft, also reporting to Guthrie. 

The initial reports about the acquisition came from Bloomberg which reported that a deal had been expected to be formally announced on Monday in the US. This also wasn’t a completely unexpected move from Microsoft as Business Insider reported only last week that the firm was eyeing up the $2 billion company.

GitHub has become so valuable because it’s at the very centre of almost every development project out there right now. Developers and companies use it to host their projects, documentation and code resources. AppleGoogleAmazon and many other tech giants use GitHub as a daily resource. As The Verge points out, Microsoft is already the top contributor to the site with over 1,000 employees publishing code there.

It’s believed the acquisition came about from initial talks around Microsoft and GitHub partnering up. One person familiar with the situation explained that this evolved into a discussion around an acquisition, giving Microsoft almost direct access to the knowledge of 27 million software developers and 80 million repositories of code.

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As part of the acquisition, it’s likely to mean closer integration between Microsoft’s developer tools and the service. Microsoft already uses the open-source Git version control system for Windows development and at Build 2018 it announced plans to integrate GitHub directly into its own App Centre for developers.

By being able to work closer with GitHub and push its services onto the repository for developers, Microsoft is probably hoping that it leads to even more developers using their tools and systems for work – leading to more sales of Microsoft’s products and services.

This isn’t the first time Microsoft has bought another company that doesn’t initially seem like a standard investment for the 40-plus-year-old company. In 2015 it bought task management app Wunderlist for $200 million before shuttering the service in 2017; in 2016 Microsoft bought professional networking site LinkedIn for a staggering $26 billion, and only last month it bought AI startup Semantic Machines for an undisclosed sum.

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It’s because of purchases similar to these that Microsoft has taken third place in global rankings for the most valuable companies in the world – usurping Google parent company Alphabet.

There was a lot of push-back to the news of Microsoft’s latest acquisition, but it’s unlikely Microsoft would simply lock the system down to its own productivity tools.  Following Microsoft’s $7.5 billion acquisition of GitHub, staff writer Adam Shepherd, from our sister title ITPro, gave his views on the acquisition:

The reactions from the developer community to this news have been predictably apocalyptic, with users mourning ‘the death of open source’ and sharing various memes about forced use of Edge, the return of Clippy and other swipes at Microsoft.

What they’re forgetting, however, is that the Microsoft which just bought GitHub is a very different Microsoft to the image most of the tech community has in its heads. Sure, it used to be famous for its closed-off attitude, disregard for collaboration with other companies and general refusal to play ball on anything but its own terms. Now, however, I would argue that Microsoft is one of the biggest supporters of open-source in the entire tech industry.

CEO Satya Nadella has been vociferously pushing open-source technology since the start of his tenure as Microsoft’s boss and, since he took over, the company has opened up a whole host of its own products and technologies, including Visual Studio Code, .NET Core, PowerShell and more. It has also collaborated extensively with other major players in the open-source space, letting open source distros like Ubuntu and Suse Enterprise Linux run on Windows and launching Linux compatibility for SQL Server.

If nothing else, look at the amount that Microsoft uses GitHub itself; the company was the most prolific contributor to the platform last year, with Visual Studio Code having almost double the number of contributors as Facebook’s React Native repository. Microsoft may have been openly hostile towards Linux and open source in the past, but those days are long gone. Led by Nadella, Microsoft has not been shy about putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to support for open-source.

Developers are right to be somewhat cautious, of course; no major tech company is entirely trustworthy, and there is still every chance that Microsoft could change GitHub in some unpleasant ways. Out of all the possible buyers for GitHub, however, Microsoft offers one that understands its value and importance, and once which has demonstrated a commitment to the ideals it represents. This news is far from a disaster. In fact, it could be a new beginning for GitHub. Give Microsoft a chance – it might just surprise you.

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