When the news that Microsoft is acquiring GitHub became official early Monday, reactions were mixed. Understandably, GitHub’s user base, which consists mostly of developers, is skeptical of the move. The union of a source code platform with the maker of Office 360 (and Microsoft Clippy) might seem like an odd pairing. But if you believe that development, and developers, belong at the heart of all work, then this is some of the most exciting news to emerge since GitHub was founded.
Just as Microsoft made Office the must-have toolkit for businesses of the ’90s and ’00s, I expect GitHub to become the de facto standard for businesses everywhere — not just the most forward-thinking teams.
That’s because Microsoft has the power not only to integrate GitHub into its suite of developer tools and offerings but also into its broader suite of business tools. This is an incredibly compelling plan to bring non-developers and even non-technical workers closer to the code.
And in case it needs clarifying, bringing everyone close to the code is a good thing. It creates the transparent, focused team dynamics that let people do their best work. My own team has already seen a lot of benefits from making sure everyone — from our dev team to our marketing and business teams — is fluent in GitHub. When platforms like GitHub are accessible to everyone, even as they cater to developers, teams ship better software. They also communicate and collaborate better. Source code management may not be a winner-take-all market, but advantages like this mean GitHub will be the tool of choice not only for developers, but also for project managers, marketing teams, and beyond.
This is a narrative we’ve seen time and time again within innovative enterprises that are doubling down on technology to gain a competitive advantage. While these companies are often successful in placing engineering at the heart of their organization, they’re not always sure about how to provide a window into development for other functions within the company. And usually it’s the development teams that pay the price — often being forced into disparate and disconnected tools and systems in order to provide updates and collaborate with other internal teams. It’s an approach that’s often at direct odds with the organization’s mission to become more developer-driven in order to ship better products.
But imagine a world where everything lives in GitHub, or an extension of it. Forget all the other collaboration tools that have become en vogue with the advent of the cloud. This will be the future of the file system. The future of work.
After all, GitHub’s original vision was to build a community around code, the thesis being that by creating conversation around code, it could be truly collaborative. The acquisition is likely to attract even more teams and developers to GitHub, helping to create an even more vibrant community of integrators and developers.
Microsoft is also well positioned to make GitHub’s Marketplace, which launched just over a year ago, even more powerful. The acquisition should allow GitHub to further accelerate investments it’s already making to grow its ecosystem; namely, to make it easier than ever to build on top of GitHub.
Though it’s easy to find fault with the Microsoft of decades past, Microsoft in 2018 is more committed to the developer experience than ever before. It has already open-sourced a number of high profile project on GitHub (such as Visual Studio code) and is one of most active open source contributors. These moves strongly resonate with the way GitHub both works with and supports its partners. There’s therefore a natural synergy when it comes to Microsoft continuing to make investments into GitHub as a platform that further the experience for developers. It will be especially exciting if this move allows GitHub integrators to more deeply and natively integrate with other parts of the Microsoft DevOps stack, specifically at the infrastructure layer.
Taken together, this acquisition means that a future of work with development at its center is even closer than we might have hoped. I can’t wait.
Aaron Upright is cofounder of ZenHub.