It’s been a crazy week.

News that Microsoft is buying GitHub shocked and stunned the developer community, with reverberations of the deal being mostly keenly felt by those involved with open source projects.

Folks are (rather understandably) scared and suspicious of Microsoft — bleedin’ Microsoft! — and of its motives.

Is the GitHub developers know and love about to change? Will Microsoft logins become mandatory? What happens to the Atom text editor? AND SHOULD WE FEAR THE ARRIVAL OF CLIPPY?!!

Some developers aren’t waiting to find out the answer.

GitHub alternatives like GitLab report massive spikes in user sign-ups since the deal was announced’

GitHub alternatives like GitLab are reporting massive spikes in new user sign-ups and code migrations since news of the deal became public.

So, in an effort to ease concerns (and stem the tide of people taking their repos elsewhere, Microsoft’s Nat Friedman, aka GitHub’s incoming CEO, has fielded questions from the developer community over on Reddit.

Nat Friedman Did a Reddit AMA, This is What he Said

I know that this AMA is, like most corporate AMAs, a PR exercise by design. It’s designed to show that the Microsoft-GitHub is “listening” to concerns.

Nat Friedman, GitHub’s new CEO, has been involved in open source for decades

On the flip side it’s Nat-freaking-Friedman doing the talking. He’s been involved in open source for decades.

Nat held post as Chief Technology and Strategy Officer for Open Source at Novell — that’s the SUSE Linux people — before teaming up with Miguel de Icaza — aka the founder of the GNOME desktop — to create Xamarin. He only transferred to Microsoft when it purchased the company back 2016.

Now he’s about to become CEO of GitHub, the world’s biggest platform for open source development.

So, y’know what, I’m willing to hear him out.

For reference you can read the full AMA with Nat Friedman on Reddit but, to save you wading through the hundreds of replies, I figured I’d highlight a couple of his key responses below.

Is GitHub Going to Change?

The reason why I (and perhaps you) love GitHub is because it is clean, minimal and developer focused.

There is a growing concern that Microsoft may seek to bloat the service with add-ons, feature creep, and integrations with their own services, like Azure and LinkedIn.

Is that likely?

According to Nat the short answer sounds is no:

“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,” he says.

He adds (in response to a similar question) that: “GitHub has been successful in large part because of its product philosophy, and we intend to continue that”.

Why has Microsoft previously rejected the idea of open source software?


Will Private Repos Stay Private, i.e. even Microsoft can’t see their code?

On the subject of whether the code and data inside private directories will remain just that, Nat is more direct, replying: “GitHub already has policies and controls in place to limit employee access to private repos, and this will remain as tight as ever under Microsoft.”

This is good to know on a personal note as we (Ohso) have private repos on Github.

His Response to Projects Ditching GitHub

Asked for his response “to people moving repos to GitLab and other providers”, Friedman replies:

“Developers are independent thinkers and will always have a healthy degree of skepticism, but I admit I was sad to see that some felt compelled to move their code. I take the responsibility of earning their trust seriously.”

I take the responsibility of earning [developers’] trust seriously

“I hope those who have tried out other Git hosts in the past few days will keep an open mind and consider moving back once we’ve demonstrated our commitment to openness and made GitHub even better. If they choose not to move back, that’s their prerogative and we celebrate developer choice even when developers don’t choose us.”

Switching back to PR mode Friedman contextualises the various news reports of a mass exodus by noting that the number of closed Github accounts is relatively “small”, and has been offset by surge in new sign-ups since word of the deal leaked.

What Will Happen to GitHub’s Atom Text Editor?

The atom Text Editor screenshot

At Microsoft, we already use every editor from Atom to VS Code to Sublime to Vim – and we want developers to use the editor they prefer

Another key question many have had about the buyout is what happens to the Atom text editor ? After all, doesn’t it compete with VS Code?

Atom fans will be relieved to hear that, according to Nat, nothing changes. He says the respective companies “will continue to develop and support both Atom and VS Code going forward”:

Choosing an editor is one of the most personal decisions a developer makes. Languages change, jobs change, you often get a new computer or upgrade your OS, but you usually pick an editor and grow with it for years. The last thing I would want to do is take that decision away from Atom users.”

Nat used emacs full-time from 1994 to 2006

Other tidbits learned from the AMA:

  • They may add GitHub as a login option for Microsoft services
  • GitHub runs on Github; they use issues and pull requests to collaborate
  • Search is a “clear area for us to invest in in the future (sic)”
  • They want to make it easier for developers to sign their commits
  • Clippy is actually called Clippit — who knew?!

Have these answers calmed your nerves? Have you already switched to an alternative service? Let us know your thoughts (and the questions you’d have asked Nat) in the comments section.

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