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Microsoft, GitHub and the Power of Community

Rich LawsonWritten by Rich Lawson
Jul 25, 2018 7:34:46 AM

When it comes to open-source platforms, I’ve always felt that one of the biggest assets is the community that comes with the platform. The ability to have passionate, dedicated individuals working together to further the development of a project — be it an individual module or a larger piece of technology — has always been inspiring to me.

Photo by "My Life Through A Lens"

For close to 10 years, I’ve been a member of  the Drupal community, and the growth and development of the platform over that time is a testament to the commitment of the many thousands of developers around the world who want to push the platform’s potential further than ever before, whether it be through core commits or through the creation and maintenance of modules and other projects to extend the platform.

Apparently, the leaders of Microsoft have a similar feeling when it comes to the power of a community of coders.

Last month, Microsoft purchased GitHub for $7.5 billion. Now for those who don’t know, GitHub is the world’s leading software development platform, and it is where developers and organizations host code, projects and other informational documentation.

In 2017, more than 24 million developers around the world worked on some type of code hosted on GitHub. That is a lot of developers, which makes for one talented community.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made it clear in the company’s press release announcing the deal that GitHub’s community of developers was a major reason for the acquisition. Here is what he said:

“Microsoft is a developer-first company, and by joining forces with GitHub we strengthen our commitment to developer freedom, openness and innovation. We recognize the community responsibility we take on with this agreement and will do our best work to empower every developer to build, innovate and solve the world’s most pressing challenges.”

What’s fascinating is that this appreciation for open-source has not always been present at Microsoft. In fact, the viewpoint used to be completely different. Microsoft started out as very proprietary and closed-source. Recently, however, the company has demonstrated that it much better understands the power of open-source development.

What’s telling about that is that such a major player in the enterprise software development space realizes how important it is to get a community of developers together around code. Simply put, it’s one of the best ways to drive projects forward.

Nadella supported this belief in the same press release. In it, he said:

Today, every company is becoming a software company and developers are at the center of digital transformation; they drive business processes and functions across organizations from customer service and HR to marketing and IT. And the choices these developers make will increasingly determine value creation and growth across every industry.”

Now, some people may be shocked at the price Microsoft is spending. And yes, $7.5 billion is an incredibly large number. People may wonder if GitHub is actually worth that much. Well, the answer is yes — and no. GitHub itself probably is not worth that purchase price. But, as the Harvard Business Review explained, Microsoft isn’t buying GitHub for GitHub. Microsoft is buying it for the access to GitHub’s developer community.

And in the eyes of Microsoft’s leaders, that community is well worth the price.

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