In 2018, Microsoft spent $ 7.5 billion on the code-sharing site GitHub, making one of its most precious acquisitions ever. It was not the cleanest. GitHub is used by more than 50 million developers who have a tendency to be outspoken, including when they dislike Microsoft.
The deal continues to face unexpected challenges, such as a recent dispute with the Recording Industry Association of America. In October, the RIAA asked GitHub to take youtube-dl, a piece of open-source software that enables people to download videos from YouTube and other online services.
The software disappeared from the Internet, and users objected.
A GitHub user on the site described the incident as “a shame for GitHub” and stated that the “Microsoft takeover was indeed a mistake.” Another asked Microsoft to resign from the RIAA, an organization consisting mainly of record labels and musicians. Another user was so enraged by GitHub’s removal that the person responded by posting part of GitHub’s self-owned software on the area of the site where digital copyright requests are reported.
The code was adjusted by the person who maintained the project so that it was no longer in violation of the RIAA. The company then brought youtube-dl back online and announced a new process to handle similar claims.
Like fellow tech giants Amazon, Apple and Google, Microsoft also faces a variety of challenges related to its bugginess, be it from many of its rivals, millions of customers, benefiting investors or competition-related politicians. GitHub, as a virtual lifeline for storehouses and programmers of open-source projects, creates a different kind of tension.
GitHub can solve some problems by following the demands of opposing users. Others are more sensitive, such as the company’s work with US immigration and customs enforcement.
GitHub refused to cut ties with the ICE after renewing its contract to use GitHub software, leading key employees to resign. Major GitHub users published an open letter late last year stating that GitHub terminated the contract, citing the separation of children from their parents and other activities by the agency. Hundreds of GitHub activists signed an internal petition with the ICE last year to stop GitHub work, two former employees also said, who were not authorized to talk about internal affairs.
GitHub did not respond to a request for comment.
Addressing the ICE issue, GitHub expressed opposition to family separation. The company said it has no service agreements with the agency, does not undertake any consulting work and “has no visibility into how others could possibly be used for software development and version control.”
Microsoft has faced criticism, aside from GitHub, for its work providing cloud services at ICE, even though the company said in 2018 that it was “disbanded” by the practice of family separation.
For GitHub, the latest incident involving video downloading tools has given users the opportunity to rule the ICE controversy. Former GitHub engineer Zach Holman responded to the clarification given by the company’s CEO Nat Friedman, exposing the previous incident.
Freedman’s tweet often received responses to the impact of “drop ICE”.
Holman, who left Github in 2015 and now invests in start-ups, said, “The whole thing is now all they allow,” adding that the easiest resolution would be to terminate the contract, which Freedman called “our company’s Described as “not financially material.”
Earlier this year, GitHub was among the technology companies that showed support for the black community after the murder of George Floyd in police custody in May, and led to nationwide protests.
Some users of Github suggested that the company may change part of its service, to retire the racially sensitive term “master”. The term refers to the primary area where developers store their code.
GitHub announced plans to actually do so a week later, renamed to “Main”. With good intentions, the company welcomed a fresh batch of comments about the ICE contract.
Holman expressed it this way: “How do I reconcile your position with the ICE and what are you saying about support for diversity in technology?”
Watch: The rise of open-source software