Microsoft has resumed in earnest talks to buy leading open source code repository GitHub, according to a report published Friday in Business Insider.
The world's largest software maker, once exclusively a bastion of proprietary technology, would position itself as an even more influential player in open source communities if it took control of the San Francisco-based startup, which provides a global platform for developers to share code and mutually contribute to projects, according to partners.
Sources identified as close to both companies told the business publication that Microsoft has been flirting with GitHub in recent years, but the last few weeks have seen a serious resumption of negotiations that had broken off several times before.
The potential deal suggests GitHub is shying away from widely reported plans for an IPO. That change in course is thought related to challenges in replacing Chris Wanstrath as CEO—the GitHub co-founder has stayed on in the top job since announcing his resignation last August.
GitHub raised a total of US$250 million in 2015, valuing the company at US$2 billion.
Microsoft developed and operated CodePlex, once GitHub's primary competitor. But last year the company shut down the code-sharing service it launched in 2006.
Upon shuttering CodePlex, Microsoft came to an agreement with GitHub to enable developers using its platform to migrate code to the rival repository so as not to stymie their work.
Microsoft's Visual Studio Code, a source code editor, is the open source project with the most contributors on GitHub.
Microsoft scaled to software dominance by maintaining a tight grip over a closed ecosystem, but in recent years has been heavily investing in open source projects.
Those efforts include open sourcing the .NET development and PowerShell configuration management frameworks, developing Azure Sphere, a Linux-based operating system for internet of things and introducing Linux to its Azure Cloud.
GitHub's push into the channel began in earnest in 2012, when it launched an enterprise-focused version of its platform that runs behind an organisation's firewall, enabling admins to manage and control access to code.
In 2016, GitHub launched a channel program and cast a net for enterprise partners to drive its expansion.
While GitHub began as a place for developers to collaborate on open source projects, by that point it was used by many large enterprises with advanced software development practices.
GitHub primarily partners with system integrators and small boutique firms that can provide services that large customers need for moving code onto the repository. Those partners often migrate large amounts of code from other repositories and audit the code using security tools.