GitHub makes its first major move since Microsoft bought it for $7.5 billion - and it's something customers have long been asking for

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and incoming GitHub CEO Nat FriedmanIncoming GitHub CEO Nat Friedman (left) and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (right)Microsoft

  • GitHub has announced GitHub Free, which gives users unlimited private repositories for free - a move that brings it into tighter competition with rivals like Atlassian BitBucket or Gitlab. 
  • This is GitHub's first major update since Microsoft officially acquired the code-sharing service for $7.5 billion in October.
  • Nat Friedman, CEO of GitHub, says that unlimited free private repositories was the top-requested feature for GitHub.
  • Microsoft bought GitHub to win the hearts and minds of software developers, and this could be an important step towards that goal.

GitHub has made its first major update since Microsoft officially acquired the ubiqituous code-sharing service for $7.5 billion: It's giving away unlimited free hosting for private coding projects.

With GitHub Free, developers can now host as many private coding projects they want for free.

This is a big deal because, in the past, GitHub's free offering only allowed you to make coding projects that could be viewed by anybody, anywhere. The ability to host private projects - like a homework assignment, a side project, or even a coding test for a programming job - was a paid feature.  Now, making private repositories is free for everybody, and users can loop in up to three collaborators on these projects. 

Nat Friedman, CEO of GitHub, writes on Twitter that since its acquisition, GitHub has shipped over 125 improvements. Based on customer feedback, unlimited free private repositories was the top-requested feature. Notably, free private repositories are a hallmark feature of GitHub rivals like Gitlab or Atlassian BitBucket. 

"I'm especially excited to ship it because GitHub is ultimately a community, and the more collaboration that happens on GitHub, the better it can be for everyone," Friedman tweeted. "We often think of coding as a solitary activity, but in fact it's the world's largest team sport."

GitHub also announced that it's consolidated its existing products for the business under the GitHub Enterprise brand, which it will now sell as one subscription. Those products include GitHub Enterprise Cloud, which gives businesses a private GitHub portal for their own use, and GitHub Enterprise Server, which lets customers run GitHub's software in their own servers for maximum control over their data. 

Read more: GitHub CEO Nat Friedman lays out the master plan

Microsoft's acquisition of GitHub was a major play for the hearts and minds of software developers, everywhere. Giving away more of the service for free could be an important step towards that goal. 

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