In 2018, everything runs on software, and programmers are more important than ever. More and more of them have signed up to use a web-based service called GitHub. If you saw the news of its $7.5 billion acquisition by Microsoft and you’re wondering what it is, look no further.
What is GitHub – A quick history
Before GitHub, there was simply Git. It launched in 2005, created by the father of Linux, Linus Torvalds. Git was made to help the development of Linux as a way to keep track of any changes in a set of files, and make it easy to just go back and start over if you discover that the code isn’t working for you. Git was designed from the start to be free and open software, which is not surprising if you consider its creator.
However, Git was also not for the novice programmer, and some folks thought it could be easier to use. In 2008, Tom Preston-Werner, Chris Wanstrath and PJ Hyett launched GitHub, a web-based service that made it much easier for programmers to use Git-based software and collaborate with others on their projects. Anyone could use it for free (you can pay money for extra storage and more features) and it slowly became an excellent way to upload and distribute open-source software projects, many of which were free to be downloaded and used by anyone. Among other things, it became a popular source for third-party Android libraries.
GitHub has steadily gained more and more subscribers over the last 10 years. For its fifth birthday, the company revealed it had 3.5 million users and was the home to 6 million software repositories. It’s growth only got more intense from there. By the time Microsoft revealed its plans to purchase GitHub, the company stated it had a whopping 28 million users, and the number of stored repositories had skyrocketed to 80 million. It’s also being used by huge companies to help develop and distribute its projects, including Walmart, Facebook, and even Microsoft’s biggest rival, Google.
Why is Microsoft buying it
Not too long ago, the attitute of Microsoft toward any kind of open-source software bordered on outright hatred. That’s not the case anymore. Microsoft’s Windows operating system still dominates the PC market, but now the focus is on mobile and cloud software. Guided by CEO Satya Nadella, the company has transitioned toward becoming a more software-oriented business, working with any OS. That includes programs using open-source software
With all those developers signed up for GitHub, Microsoft feels purchasing the service will allow it to offer its software development tools directly to millions of people, while also keeping Github’s open-source structure intact.
If you have just been learning about GitHub, you may have also seen the company’s odd looking mascot. The “octocat” has a cute cat’s head, but five octopus-like legs (technically, it only has four legs, with the fifth leg serving as the octocat’s tail). British graphic designer named Simon Oxley created it back in 2006 (he also designed the original Twitter bird mascot). Funnily enough, Oxley claims he doesn’t really remember much about why he made it.
In any case, GitHub saw the design (which was originally called Octopuss), bought the rights to the mascot from Oxley, and changed the name to Octocat. The web site now has a page dedicated to storing all of the Octocat variants members have created over the years.
What is GitHub – Conclusion
Now that you know what Github is, check it out for yourself. Perhaps you will be inspired to use it to upload your own software projects.