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GitHub has made its first really big change since Microsoft acquired it a while back, and it’s a good one for small-to-medium sized design studios, freelancers, and anyone who writes front-end code for fun and profit: Free users now get unlimited private repositories. For free. No money.

GitHub has always offered free public repositories, but you had to pay for the private ones; a move which encouraged the flourishing of open source software. But I have personally avoided using it on more than one occasion for two reasons:

  1. Who really wants people to see their code before it’s ready? That can be kind of embarrassing, especially if your the kind of person who works messy, and cleans everything up after.
  2. Sometimes you’ll be working under an NDA, or even just a handshake agreement to keep things quiet until they’re ready. Public repos kind of defeat that purpose.
Now instead of heading on over to a competitor like BitBucket, GitHub is an option for people who don’t want everyone to see all those missing semicolons and incredibly vague code comments. Well, it’s an option so long as no more than three people will be working on it. So… freelancers and studios with small dev teams, basically.

If you’ve been avoiding GitHub for any of these reasons, now is the time to get some GitHub experience. It’s nearly essential to working on many teams these days, so it’s good to get in some practice. Besides, GitHub’s GUI for Windows is really good right now, so long as you understand the basic concepts behind Git and its version control.

So that’s what you get out of it. What does Microsoft get out of doing something so nice for all of us working on our personal projects? Well:

  1. Microsoft gets good press. (You’re reading some of it right now.)
  2. Microsoft encourages more people to work and play with GitHub, meaning people will be more inclined to adopt the platform when they’re starting their own enterprise-level projects, or when they’re part of a bigger team.
Really, they didn’t have much to lose. Enterprise clients typically need more than three developers to work on a project at a time, so it hasn’t cut into their business model. A few extra projects on their already massive servers are worth more potential customers in the long run.

When I first wrote about Microsoft’s acquisition of GitHub, I believed Microsoft would see the business opportunities in not completely destroying GitHub and its community. So far, so good. Their treatment of GitHub and Visual Studio Code give me hope. Now if only they’ll stop messing about with Skype and Windows 10 updates, they could really impress us.

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