It’s hard to believe that it has almost been a year since Microsoft completed its acquisition of GitHub. While a vocal number of people in the community decried the decision and some moved to GitLab since the acquisition Microsoft has made a series of positive moves.
It all started with GitHub making private repositories free in January 2019, up to three collaborators. This is a move that directly competed with competing Atlassian owned source control platform Bitbucket which offered free private repos as well.
And then recently, GitHub announced GitHub Package Registry, an in-preview up and coming rival to npmjs for Node packages, but also extending to other languages and tying in with the repository itself.
And then not too long after that, most recently, GitHub announced GitHub Sponsors allowing individual repository owners to be paid for their open source contributions.
While the latest new feature has been applauded by many, some see it as aggressive and an attempt by Microsoft to push similar open source sponsoring platforms out using its size and power to do so.
One such popular offering for open source is Open Collective, projects like Webpack and Aurelia use it so the community and companies can sponsor and fund development. With GitHub Sponsors, initially, the feature is only available for individuals, but presumably, once it goes public organisations will be able to opt-in to the feature as well.
Another popular option used by the likes of Vue.js (raking in six figures yearly in donations) is Patreon. These platforms, however, are disconnected from the projects themselves, requiring users to signup to a separate service to use.
I see GitHub Sponsors as a brilliant and much-needed move by Microsoft and GitHub. Funding and open source is a constant hot topic and while other services do exist, they are not integrated with GitHub itself. An in-built way of soliciting monetary contributions and all without requiring users to signup to another service, it’s a huge win for open source.
Best of all, GitHub is forgoing fees for the first year and then charging them after. But, it’s a nice incentive to join and try it out without losing anything. If it works, projects will presumably keep using GitHub Sponsors for their projects and if not, use a different offering.
Will GitHub Sponsors make people all of a sudden start paying for the free software and code they’re benefitting from? Who knows. All I know is this is a void that needed to be filled, one that GitLab and Bitbucket failed to address as well (and presumably will copy).