Future GitHub CEO talks Microsoft acquisition and developer concerns in Reddit AMA

Microsoft kicked off this week with a bang, confirming that it is acquiring GitHub for $7.5 billion. In announcing the acquisition, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said the move is another step in the company's relatively newfound embrace of open source technologies, and Microsoft intends to let GitHub continue to operate independently. However, developers who use the service rightly had some questions and concerns.

Seeking to address some of the issues at the top of developers' minds, Microsoft's Nat Friedman, who is set to become GitHub's new CEO when the deal closes later this year, sat down for a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA session this week. Friedman, who is currently Microsoft's Corporate Vice President of Developer Services, addressed a wide range of topics, including Microsoft's plans for the service going forward. Here's a look at some of the highlights.

Q: What is your response to people moving repos to GitLab and other providers?


Developers are independent thinkers and will always have a healthy degree of skepticism, but I admit I was sad to see that some felt compelled to move their code. I take the responsibility of earning their trust seriously.OTOH, I think it's great that git gives developers the flexibility to move their repos like this, and I hope those who have tried out other Git hosts in the past few days will keep an open mind and consider moving back once we've demonstrated our commitment to openness and made GitHub even better. If they choose not to move back, that's their prerogative and we celebrate developer choice even when developers don't choose us.That said, the GitHub team reports that the set of users who have migrated or closed their accounts is extremely small, and this is more than made up for by the surge of new signups and new interest in GitHub this week.

Q: What plans does Microsoft have regarding GitHub's Atom text editor (which obviously overlaps in target user with VS Code)?


Developers are really particular about their setup, and choosing an editor is one of the most personal decisions a developer makes. Languages change, jobs change, you often get a new computer or upgrade your OS, but you usually pick an editor and grow with it for years. The last thing I would want to do is take that decision away from Atom users.Atom is a fantastic editor with a healthy community, adoring fans, excellent design, and a promising foray into real-time collaboration. At Microsoft, we already use every editor from Atom to VS Code to Sublime to Vim, and we want developers to use any editor they prefer with GitHub.So we will continue to develop and support both Atom and VS Code going forward.

Q: Will this mean that some Microsoft product features (Visual Studio Live Share) will eventually cross over to Atom as well?


VS Code and Atom actually share a ton of history and code, and Microsoft and GitHub have collaborated on the foundational technologies for years:

  • Most obviously, we work together on Electron, the common foundation for both editors. Microsoft began working with GitHub on Electron when it was announced in 2015 – when it was still called AtomShell and before VS Code was announced. We joined their Slack channels and participated in hackathons, and Microsoft has been a major contributor to Electron ever since. We also use Electron in many other products...
  • Atom-ide adopted the  Language Server protocol  that we developed as part of VS Code. This allows sharing advanced language support between VS Code and Atom. The language packs that Atom-ide supports all share the language servers with VS Code.
  • The Atom-ide community is also talking about adopting the  Debug Adapter protocol  which will enable common debugger support between Atom and VS Code.
  • We're excited about the recent developments in real-time collaboration, and I expect Atom Teletype and VS Code Live Share to coordinate on protocols so that eventually developers using either editor can edit the same files together in real-time.

So, I love the years of collaboration between Microsoft and GitHub that have produced these two beloved editors, and I expect this fruitful relationship to continue!

Q: Are you keeping normal GitHub accounts or trying to push users to use a universal Microsoft account for GitHub login?


We love GitHub login. Your GitHub account is your developer identity, and many users are accustomed to signing into developer tools and services (e.g. Travis, Circle) with their GitHub accounts. So, if anything, we may decide to add GitHub as a login option to Microsoft.

Q: Do you have any plans to make private repos free as on GitLab and BitBucket?


Thanks for the question, but it's too soon for me to know the answer to that. We want GitHub to be accessible to everyone in the world, and for everyone to have an opportunity to be a developer.

Should we anticipate any advertising to start appearing on our public GitHub project repositories?



Q: What elements of Github's culture would you like to bring to Microsoft?


One of the cool things about GitHub is that GitHub runs on GitHub; their sales, marketing, and legal functions actually use issues and pull requests to collaborate across the company. This means that all of the various teams work in the open, and this contributes to a very collaborative culture (it also means that new lawyers at GitHub learn how to merge a PR and which emojis to use when they join!).

Q: Given Microsoft's acquisition history and the tarnished reputation some products have received as a result, why should we trust that this is a good thing for the future of GitHub?


Microsoft has learned some hard (expensive) lessons about this type of acquisition. Acquisitions under the current Microsoft leadership have a good track record – Minecraft and LinkedIn are examples where Microsoft acquired a successful platform, provided the companies with the resources they needed to accelerate, then let them continue to operate independently. It's working well.

Q: Is there any truth to the rumor that Clippy will be joining your team? I think "You appear to have a merge conflict. How can I help you?" is a good fit for Github.


His name is actually Clippit, and you will address him as Mr. Clippit.

If you're interested in checking out everything Friedman addressed, you can check out much more in the full Reddit AMA.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl