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GitHub co-founder Chris Wanstrath, future GitHub CEO Nat Friedman, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and Microsoft CFO Amy Hood. (Microsoft Photo)

GitHub will kick off the new year by allowing free users of the code repository service to maintain private projects, which should encourage smaller developers wary of its new corporate parent to stick around.

GitHub has always had a free tier that developers can use to store and manage their code, but the company required users to pay $7 a month if they wanted to keep their code private. GitHub Free will now allow users working on projects with up to three collaborators to maintain unlimited private code repositories, it plans to announce later on Monday.

“We really want our products to reflect the journey of the developer regardless of where they are in their career,” said Kathy Simpson, senior director of product management at GitHub, in explaining the new changes. As a self-taught developer, Simpson would have liked to be able to experiment with code in private during her learning phase before deciding whether or not to make that code public, she said.

There were an awful lot of indie software developers worried about the future of GitHub after Microsoft bought the widely used code management site for $7.5 billion last year. Microsoft has worked very hard to shed a bad reputation among software developers of a certain age who remember its business practices of the 1990s and 2000s, but even developers who understand that Microsoft is a different company under CEO Satya Nadella were still worried about how the company would manage such an important part of their software development workflows.

GitHub also plans to combine its Business Cloud and Enterprise pricing tiers into a single tier called GitHub Enterprise that’s intended for larger companies that want to host GitHub on their own infrastructure or use it as a cloud service. The new GitHub Enterprise service was designed for companies operating hybrid cloud environments, which represents a growing number of shops these days.

[Editor’s note: This post was updated with additional information.]

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