GitHub, the $2 billion 'Facebook for programmers,' has a plan to get even bigger

Chris wanstrath githubMatt Weinberger/Business InsiderGitHub CEO Chris Wanstrath on stage at GitHub Universe 2015

GitHub, the tremendously popular social network and code sharing app for programmers, is working to grow beyond its base of 11 million hardcore developers by integrating with other tools such as Slack.

On stage at GitHub Universe, the company’s annual conference, CEO Chris Wanstrath explained that scientists, journalists, and other number-crunchers are finding ways to use GitHub to write code and collect sample data.

Right now, there are 36 million visitors to GitHub every day, Wanstrath says.

“There are so many ways to use Git, to interact with Git,” Wanstrath says. “None of us have any idea how big software can become.”

Beyond a social network for programmers

GitHub is one of the darlings of the current Silicon Valley tech boom. It started out as a humble set of tools for open source developers, but has raised $US350 million in the last three years, including a massive $US250 million round of funding in July that valued it over $US2 billion.

GitHub rode to success on the back of the growing open source movement, where developers from all over the world contribute their time and expertise to software projects that range from data center operating systems to desktop media player software.

At the most basic level, GitHub provides the tools for developers to post and share their code, giving a project organiser an easy method of integrating any updates and new features from the community. And with GitHub’s powerful social network functions, it makes it easy to share and find new projects, too.

At its core is a piece of open source software called “Git,” which lets programmers see who added a piece of code to a program, and when.

Git is decidedly not new — it’s been part of the free Linux operating system since the 1990s — but GitHub basically put it on the Internet and turned it into a social network.

In programmer circles, it’s gotten to the point where a GitHub profile has replaced the traditional resume. All a prospective employer wants to see is which projects a developer wants to contribute to.

Meanwhile, GitHub’s business model revolves around selling paid versions of its code-tracking tools to enterprises and other businesses.

To that end, Wanstrath announced a series of product updates at GitHub Universe today:

  • First, the new integrations, which allow users to integrate GitHub with external tools and make it easier to deploy code, make changes, and track analytics.
  • Second, GitHub announced an integration with security company YubiCo, which makes a device called the “YubiKey” that simplifies two-factor authentication. It’s popular among programmers.
  • And finally, GitHub now supports even larger files.

The challenge now is for Github to turn those 36 million visitors into registered GitHub users and keep the growth train going. It’s facing pressure from competitors like Atlassian, a $US3 billion Australian tech giant that’s reportedly planning a big IPO this year.

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