Microsoft acquiring GitHub may be great for Git

Git has become synonymous with GitHub, and I’ve had multiple occasions where people new to Git do not understand the difference. A more fragmented industry can only be a good thing, right?

Jamie Mansfield
Jamie Mansfield

Git is a decentralised system, yet oddly swarms of developers have settled on hosting their projects source code, issue trackers, and more exclusively on one convenient package: GitHub. GitHub and other Git-based services (such as Google Code) took over the top positions from SourceForge in the last decade. However, within the last few years, the picture is more singular than it ever has been for public projects — GitHub has dominated the industry, and serious alternative services have all but disappeared (e.g. Google Code).

Today (Monday 4th May 2018) it was announced officially that Microsoft have acquired GitHub for stocks worth $7.5 billion. The community has not responded well, and people have been discussing moving to alternative services over the weekend — GitLab has had a 10x increase in project imports from GitHub.

Imported Repositories shortly before the official annoncement, from GitLab

Imported Repositories shortly before the official annoncement, from GitLab

Yet perhaps this is not quite as bad as it may seem. In recent years Git has become synonymous with GitHub, and I’ve had multiple occasions where people new to Git do not understand the difference. A more fragmented industry can only be a good thing, right?

Well, my first thought was yes — competition would force everyone to innovate and improve their service; and the difference between the service (GitHub) and the tool (Git) would be far more apparent. However, that lacks the consideration that profits are going to be further spread out across the industry (though this would perhaps not affect GitLab as it is an OSS project, and hasn’t in the past) — perhaps making innovation slower (I would think unlikely as GitHub have done a fairly good job without major competition recently).

Ultimately nobody knows exactly what Microsoft plans to do with GitHub, and perhaps they’ll leave it as-is with minimal meddling. Though it is interesting to consider what Microsoft’s competitors will (or not do) in response — both Apple and Google host plenty of their projects on GitHub, perhaps we will see a return of Google Code — only time will tell…