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2021-11-04 12:00:00

Trustworthiness is a feature

Dear Microsoft,

For the last several years, I have tried to describe Microsoft as "the Big Tech company that developers trust the most", which I believe to be a market position that exists and which offers competitive advantage. I'll admit to some hopefulness and wishful thinking, but most of the time since 2013-ish, you have seemed to be heading in that direction.

But lately you're not making things easy for me.

Yesterday you announced an org change in which GitHub is now reporting into a different executive. And out here in the community, mostly what we know (which may be incorrect) about this executive is that she (reportedly) tried at the last minute to take a feature out of open source cross-platform .NET and make it proprietary and Windows-only.

I'm just saying -- if you look only at the information most people outside of Microsoft can see, how could we not wonder if GitHub is going to be okay?

I am fond of the old saying that "trust arrives on foot and departs on a horse". Life teaches us, often painfully, that it is much easier to lose trust than to build it.

And GitHub is an extreme case of this principle. Much of the industry now hosts their code there. People outside the Microsoft ecosystem use GitHub. Your competitors use GitHub.

For GitHub, trust arrives on foot and departs on a rocket at warp speed. In terms of trust and reputation, as the owner of GitHub, you have basically zero room for error.

In a business unit, I'm sure it is common to think of competition in terms of features. And there is truth in that. For example, GitHub Actions is an awesome feature which brings you a competitive advantage.

But developers today have a lot of choices, and trustworthiness is one of the many factors they consider.

Trustworthiness is a feature.

I ask you to consider the benefits of being known by developers as the most trustworthy big tech company. For GitHub, this is basically the floor, but I claim that such a reputation would be a competitive asset for DevDiv (and therefore Azure) as well.

Look at your peer competitors -- it seems like the market position is yours if you want it.

But the occupant of that market position has gotta be really careful to treat their reputation with developers as something precious.

BTW, I am decidedly not an open source zealot. I am not saying you have to make everything free. You can certainly continue with a mix of proprietary stuff and open source stuff. By all means, keep making truckloads of money.

But make sure that you show developers that you want them to be successful, and stay consistent with expectations you have set.