Monday, 11 June 2018 16:59

Linux Foundation chief welcomes Microsoft takeover of GitHub Featured

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The Linux Foundation, the organisation that plays a role in financing the development of the Linux kernel, has welcomed Microsoft's acquisition of the source code repository, GitHub.

In a statement, LF executive director Jim Zemlin said this was "pretty good news" for the open source world and Microsoft's "smart move" should be a reason for celebration.

On 4 June, Microsoft announced it was buying GitHub for US$7.5 billion (A$9.79 billion) in Microsoft stock.

Zemlin said the purchase reminded him of how "awesome" both Git — the source code development system created by Linux creator Linus Torvalds in 2005 — and GitHub were.

He said it had also revealed that there were still "small pockets of mistrust" of Microsoft within the open source community.

"I will own responsibility for some of that as I spent a good part of my career at the Linux Foundation poking fun at Microsoft (which, at times, prior management made way too easy). But times have changed and it’s time to recognise that we have all grown up – the industry, the open source community, even me," Zemlin added.

Buying GitHub did not mean that Microsoft owned projects on GitHub, he said, pointing to what he claimed were two of the fastest growing projects in LF's "family": Kubernetes and Node.js, both of which are developed on GitHub. "Project copyright owners retain their ownership of their code," he added.

Zemlin said the acquisition was a reminder of how Microsoft, under the leadership of Satya Nadella, "has now completed its transition from an adversary of open source to a first-class citizen".

It was also a reminder of how much open source developer communities were heavily reliant on platforms.

Zemlin said the takeover of GitHub meant "generally good things" for open source.

"They brought in Nat Friedman as GitHub’s CEO, someone I have known for years and has been well-respected in the open source community for a couple decades," he claimed.

"Nat is clear that Microsoft is walking their talk stating, 'I’m not asking for your trust, but I’m committed to earning it. I can’t wait to help make the GitHub platform and community that’s special to all of us even greater.' I believe he means it."

iTWire contacted Zemlin and asked him the following queries:

"GitHub is a proprietary platform which some months back changed its terms of service, in such a way that there was some worry that the change "raised concerns that they may break at least the spirit, if not the letter, of certain free-software licences". You seem to think it is the best friend that open source has. Any comment on this?

"Microsoft has made no move to join either the Open Invention Network or the LOT Network, that make the use of Linux safer. Any comments on this? Or have you forgotten the SCO-IBM case?

"You write that Nat Friedman has been well-respected in the open source community for a couple decades. This is incorrect as Friedman earned a great deal of scorn over his support for Miguel de Icaza. Any comments?"

Zemlin has not yet responded.


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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