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This article was published on June 8, 2018

GitHub’s new CEO promises to save Atom post-Microsoft acquisition

Breathe easy: Atom is safe.

GitHub’s new CEO promises to save Atom post-Microsoft acquisition
Matthew Hughes
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Matthew Hughes

Former TNW Reporter

Matthew Hughes is a journalist from Liverpool, England. His interests include security, startups, food, and storytelling. Follow him on Twi Matthew Hughes is a journalist from Liverpool, England. His interests include security, startups, food, and storytelling. Follow him on Twitter.

Earlier this week, Microsoft announced the acquisition of GitHub for $7.5 billion, and the installation of Xamarin co-founder Nat Friedman as the social coding platform’s new CEO.

It goes without saying that this wasn’t entirely welcomed by the community, particularly by those who remember Microsoft’s antitrust days of the 1990’s.

One specific area of concern is what Microsft would do with GitHub’s beloved Atom text editor.

Developers are worried that Microsoft could pull the plug on Atom, as it directly competes with Visual Studio (VS) Code, and both editors have an awful lot in common. They’re both cross-platform and based on the Electron framework, for example.

Fortunately, GitHub has no plans to discontinue Atom, and intends to continue development on the popular text editor. As Friedman explained in a recent AMA:

Developers are really particular about their setup, and choosing an editor is one of the most personal decisions a developer makes. Languages change, jobs change, you often get a new computer or upgrade your OS, but you usually pick an editor and grow with it for years. The last thing I would want to do is take that decision away from Atom users.

Atom is a fantastic editor with a healthy community, adoring fans, excellent design, and a promising foray into real-time collaboration. At Microsoft, we already use every editor from Atom to VS Code to Sublime to Vim, and we want developers to use any editor they prefer with GitHub.

So we will continue to develop and support both Atom and VS Code going forward.

He’s not wrong. Developers are extremely fiercely passionate about their setups, and both Visual Studio Code and Atom have their share of evangelistic users. If Microsoft made any big changes here, it’d undo much of the developer goodwill it’s garnered during Satya Nadella’s tenure as CEO.

Friedman also pointed out that Visual Studio Code and Atom both share a lot of history.

Both are based on Electron, as mentioned, but Atom also uses Microsoft’s Language Server protocol. There are also rumblings that Atom could adopt the Debug Adapter protocol, which would allow common debugger support between editors. He also suggested that both editors could support compatible real-time editing in the near future:

We’re excited about the recent developments in real-time collaboration, and I expect Atom Teletype and VS Code Live Share to coordinate on protocols so that eventually developers using either editor can edit the same files together in real-time.

You can read Friedman’s AMA here. It’s actually pretty interesting, and if you’ve been following the acquisition news this week, it’s worth checking out. You’ll notice that, as he did with his open letter, he spends a lot of effort reassuring people that the day-to-day operations of GitHub won’t change after the acquisition.

Friedman also takes pains to prove his developer credentials, extensively talking about how he got his start in free software, his love of the Emacs text editor, and how he made his first commit to GitHub in 2009.

Will that be enough to reassure GitHub’s more jittery users, however? That remains to be seen.

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