In 2018, Microsoft made one of the most expensive acquisitions ever, spending $ 7.5 billion on code-sharing website GitHub. It wasn’t the cleanest fit. GitHub is used by over 50 million developers who tend to be open-minded about things they don’t like about Microsoft.
The deal continues to present unexpected challenges, such as a recent spat with the Recording Industry Association of America. In October the RIAA asked GitHub youtube-dl, an open source software that allows users to download videos from YouTube and other online services.
The software disappeared from the Internet and users protested.
A GitHub user on the site described the incident as “a shame on GitHub” and said “the Microsoft acquisition was really a mistake”. Another called to Microsoft to withdraw from the RIAA, an organization consisting mainly of record labels and musicians. GitHub’s removal got another user so upset that the person replied to it Release of part of the proprietary software from GitHub The section of the website that reports requests to remove digital copyright.
The code has been adapted by the person who maintained the project so that it no longer violates the RIAA. The company then brought youtube-dl back online and announced a new process to process similar claims.
Like the other technology giants Amazon, Apple, and Google, Microsoft faces all sorts of challenges related to its size, be it from its many competitors, millions of customers, for-profit investors, or politicians worried about competition. GitHub as a warehouse for open source projects and a virtual lifeline for programmers creates tensions of a different kind.
Some problems that GitHub can solve by meeting the requests of protesting users. Others are more sensitive, like the company’s work with U.S. immigration and customs.
GitHub has refused to cut ties with ICE and to lead the employees step back after the agency extended its contract to use the GitHub software. Major GitHub users posted one open letter Insisted late last year that GitHub terminate the contract, citing the agency’s separation of the children from their parents and other activities. Hundreds of GitHub’s own employees signed an internal petition last year asking GitHub to stop working with ICE, said two former employees who were not authorized to speak on internal matters.
GitHub didn’t respond to a request for comment.
In solving the ICE problem, GitHub expressed contradiction for family separation. The company said it did not have a service contract with the agency, did not offer consultancy work, and “had no insight into the use of this software except, presumably, for software development and version control.”
Microsoft, separately from GitHub, has been criticized for its work in providing cloud services for ICE, despite the company saying in 2018 that the practice of family separation was “dismayed”.
For GitHub, the recent video download tool incident gave users an opportunity to rekindle the ICE controversy. Former GitHub engineer Zach Holman responded to a statement from Nat Friedman, the company’s CEO, by pointing out the past incident.
Friedman’s tweets are often replied to about the “Drop ICE” effect.
“The whole thing permeates everything they do now,” said Holman, who left GitHub in 2015 and is now investing in startups. He said the easiest solution was to end the contract, the Friedman had described as “financially not material to our company.”
Earlier this year, GitHub was among the tech companies that showed support for the black community after George Floyd’s murder in police custody in May and the nationwide protests that followed.
Some GitHub users suggested that the company could rename part of its service so that “master,” a racially sensitive word, could be retired. The term refers to the primary area in which developers store their code.
GitHub announced to plan to do exactly that a week later and change the name to “main”. Despite good intentions, the company welcomed a number of new comments on the ICE contract.
Holman summed it up as follows: “How can I reconcile your position with ICE and what do you think about supporting tech diversity?”
CLOCK: The rise of open source software