- We spoke with GitHub’s outgoing CEO, Chris Wanstrath, and incoming CEO, Nat Friedman, about what will happen to the startup after Microsoft buys it for $US7.5 billion.
- “The plan is to help GitHub be great at being GitHub,” Friedman said. It will operate independently, and the whole team is expected to make the transition.
- Some developers are upset at the deal, concerned that Microsoft will lock GitHub down to not work with any competitors’ technologies.
- Not so, Wanstrath said: “Scepticism is totally understandable, but we’re on the right path.”
On Monday, Microsoft announced its intent to buy GitHub, the red-hot startup at the center of the open-source software world, for $US7.5 billion.
As part of the deal, a Microsoft vice president, Nat Friedman, will take over as CEO of GitHub. Chris Wanstrath, the GitHub cofounder who is currently serving as CEO, will take the new title of Microsoft technical fellow and remain an adviser to the company. Microsoft expects that the whole GitHub team will stick around for the transition as well.
Business Insider spoke with Friedman and Wanstrath following news of the acquisition, and the two laid out the master plan for what will happen after the closing of the GitHub deal, expected later this year. The short version: GitHub will maintain its independence as a wholly owned subsidiary but have access to Microsoft’s prowess in engineering and sales.
“The plan is to help GitHub be great at being GitHub,” Friedman told Business Insider.
Word of the deal, which Business Insider first reported on Friday, has already caused some consternation in Silicon Valley and beyond.
Programmers on Twitter joked that Microsoft would soon add its animated Microsoft Office assistant Clippy or force people to log in with their Office account (some of the jokes were “pretty funny,” Friedman allowed). Others struck a more serious tone, as they worried that the deal might mean GitHub becomes closed off to anything but Microsoft technologies.
Friedman said plainly that this would not be in the cards: GitHub has won over 24 million developers because of its openness to all tools and technology, and it wouldn’t do to hamstring it now. Friedman himself has some context here: He came to Microsoft in 2016 when his own startup, Xamarin, was purchased and integrated into the company’s cloud business.
“It’s incumbent on us to use the philosophy that’s made GitHub successful,” Friedman said.
For his part, Wanstrath sees where the doubters are coming from, but he noted that successful recent Microsoft acquisitions like the $US26.2 billion LinkedIn buy and the $US2.5 billion purchase of the “Minecraft” publisher Mojang should give GitHub users some comfort.
“Scepticism is totally understandable, but we’re on the right path,” Wanstrath said.
Indeed, Wanstrath sees those acquisitions in particular as reasons GitHub has a bright future at Microsoft.
Way back in 2015, Wanstrath sketched out his vision of GitHub’s future to Business Insider, and a big part of it involved lowering the barriers to entering the profession of coding. With Minecraft, Microsoft is encouraging kids to try their hands at coding. And at LinkedIn, Microsoft is investing in helping workers develop the tech skills they need to compete in the modern economy. That dovetails with where he’s long wanted GitHub to go.
“That’s what we’re excited about at this stage,” Wanstrath said.
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