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Pentagon furor may have distracted Google in bid to buy GitHub

Published Jun 28th, 2018 11:43AM EDT
Google GitHub Microsoft
Image: Eric Risberg/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Google’s Cloud CEO conceded at a Fortune Magazine event in San Francisco Wednesday something many people suspected — that the Mountain View-based computing giant got beaten by Microsoft in a bid to buy GitHub, a $7.5 billion deal between the latter two companies that was announced earlier this month.

Speaking at Fortune’s “Most Powerful Women Evening” event, Google Cloud head Diane Greene somewhat wistfully noted that ” I wouldn’t have minded buying them, but it’s OK,” according to a Bloomberg report. That comes after accounts like one from CNBC earlier this month that noted Google and GitHub were in talks.

Worth noting, though, is that Google’s interest in buying the service also came amid a major internal brushfire in the form of staff protests over a Google contract with the Pentagon for artificial intelligence-related work.

A few thousand Google staffers signed a petition demanding that the company be kept out of the “business of war.” The catalyst was a March announcement that Google would team up with the Pentagon to use AI help analyze and make sense of drone footage.

Greene eventually told employees the company would not renew the contract, which arguably may have distracted Google from a possible GitHub acquisition. Other factors likely included GitHub founder Chris Wanstrath’s affinity for Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Greene — an influential figure who also sits on the board of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc. and has led its cloud effort since 2015 — did manage to throw a little shade yesterday, saying she hopes Microsoft is able to keep the code repository “totally neutral.” Some 85 million repositories are hosted on the service to which almost 30 million developers contribute, and it’s likewise popular with tech giants like Amazon and Facebook.

The latter has reaffirmed its commitment to GitHub, with a Facebook spokesman telling The Verge that “as long as GitHub remains a great place to share our projects and collaborate with the open source community, we’ll continue to use it.”

According to one report that provides a little more context for the GitHub purchase, both Microsoft’s Nadella and soon-to-be GitHub CEO Nat Friedman have been keen to make clear that GitHub will be run as an effort independent of the Redmond mothership. “LinkedIn has been cited as an example, although Microsoft may come to regret the comparison. Following its acquisition of the social-media-for-suits platform in 2016, Microsoft has slurped data for its own purposes, which is, er, exactly what developers are concerned about.”

Meanwhile, a GitHub competitor — GitLab — announced this week it’s moving to Google’s cloud platform. The race, in other words, goes on.

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Andy Meek Trending News Reporter

Andy Meek is a reporter who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming. Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.