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Give Microsoft a chance: Why GitHub is in safe hands

Despite uproar from developers, Microsoft is a very different animal under Satya Nadella

 Satyanarayana Nadella

Reactions from the developer community to Microsoft's $7.5 billion acquisition of code repository GitHub 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 that just bought GitHub is a very different Microsoft to the one most of the tech community remembers. 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 in charge 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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