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Q&A

GitHub Tries to Grow Up

GitHub has become the top destination for developers who want to collaborate on code. It has 8.3 million users who work together on 19.1 million software projects hosted on its site. These range from Bootstrap, a popular framework for building mobile websites, to AngularJS, a Google-backed tool for building web apps.

Founded in 2008, GitHub is built on top of Git, an open-source program for so-called “version control”— that is, keeping track of who is doing what when lots of people are working on a code base.

It’s also something of an experiment in the closely-watched area of whether companies beloved by developers can become enterprise software giants, rivaling Microsoft or Oracle. Investors including Andreessen Horowitz, which together put $100 million into the company in 2012, are betting that they can.

Not long after its launch, the company started earning revenue by charging developers for keeping their code private, as opposed to the public default. More recently, GitHub has been pushing GitHub Enterprise, a paid version of the software that starts at $5,000 a year and lets big companies host their code repositories within their own data centers.

GitHub became well-known for its quirky culture, like its jetpack-enabled eight-legged “Octocat” mascot, a well-stocked bar and a visitor room styled after the Oval Office. But to many, it also came to embody the tech industry stereotype of a lavishly funded startup run by immature founders.

Last spring, Julie Ann Horvath, a designer and front-end developer for the company, asserted she was forced out of the company by a culture of sexism and intimidation of female employees. She didn’t file any criminal or civil charges, but GitHub hired an independent investigator who found the company had made “mistakes and errors of judgement.” The investigation resulted in the resignation of co-founder Tom Preston-Werner, who had served as the firm’s first CEO.

Chris Wanstrath dropped out of college and came to San Francisco to code at CNET Networks before meeting Mr. Preston-Werner at a SoMa sports bar. After co-founding GitHub, he stepped into the CEO role just over a year ago.

The Information chatted with Mr. Wanstrath about everything from the importance of good HR teams to why open-source is eating the world. Edited excerpts follow.

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The student developer pack, you’ll see a lot coming from us in the coming years. You’re going to see a lot more of what we’d consider fringe software communities, like government or data scientists, using GitHub. We’re trying to connect everyone who’s building software. It’s such a huge and diverse world out there that we think it’s going to be interesting.

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