Pretty much no one quit GitHub over the Microsoft acquisition: Here's why

It’s still possible that Microsoft may manage to destroy all the amazing developer goodness in GitHub, having announced the acquisition a little over a month ago. At that time, some warned of a mass exodus from GitHub to GitLab and other rival code repositories. As Roberto Galoppini has pointed out, however, no such exodus has happened. There are currently 85 million code repositories on GitHub, and only a lilliputian fraction of those have exited.

How’s that greener grass?

Oh, sure, some did indeed pull up stakes, and emigrate to other platforms, GitLab most prominent among them. As Galoppini captured immediately after the deal was announced, tens of thousands of GitHub projects left, peaking at just over 20,000 projects an hour:

Image: Roberto Galoppini

Crisis material, right?

Well, a month later, we’re looking at a few dozen emigrating repositories per hour, max:

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screen-shot-2018-07-12-at-12-20-46-pm.png

Image: GitLab

It’s not clear to me why the tool won’t show June 4 through June 16 (when my search query includes those dates), but no matter: If there was a mass exodus, it’s officially over. Even the threatened boycott of GitHub by those opposed to Microsoft’s deal with ICE didn’t shake many developers from the GitHub tree.

Turns out, Microsoft just might be a great place for GitHub to live.

Home of the free

Well, no, not if Microsoft put this kind of skin on the GitHub experience:

github-in-windows.png

github-in-windows.png

Image: Alexander Prokhorov

And, as good as Azure is becoming, we also don’t want GitHub to become a biased on-ramp to the Azure cloud. Nor would it likely work. Over the years, Microsoft has tried to broaden its appeal beyond the core Windows crowd (even embracing Linux of late), but the reality is that things like .Net Core never really took off with non-Windows developers. Microsoft using a neutral platform to push people to its non-neutral products wouldn’t work.

This may be the point. One of the more promising products at Microsoft, VS Code, is “very compelling,” Dave Neary has highlighted. Why? Because it’s completely platform-agnostic, built for web/cloud native developers. Indeed, even the page is less about Microsoft (you have to go way down to the bottom right to even find a Microsoft logo, or even the word “Microsoft,” which is the exact opposite of the Visual Studio page, where the logo is the first thing you see).

These are the sorts of developers that Microsoft wants to attract, and they’re the kind who already live on GitHub. Building net new tools to earn the GitHub crowd’s trust, rather than trying to railroad them into old Microsoft products, seems a much more interesting strategy.

So, if you bolted from GitHub because you feared the Redmond beast, it may be time to eat some humble pie and come back. There aren’t many of you, so there will be plenty of pie to go around.

Also see

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Image: Microsoft/GitHub

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