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GitLab vs GitHub: differences & similarities


By Avalith Editorial Team ♦ 1 min read



A repository is a place where the source code and other files related to a software development project are stored and organized. It can be considered as a specialized folder that maintains a complete record of the changes made to the code over time.

Repositories are crucial in using version control systems like Git, as they enable developers to work collaboratively, track modifications, and maintain a detailed history of all previous code versions.

GitLab and GitHub are version control systems for managing source code in software development. When working in teams, these platforms allow developers to edit source codes, make changes, and, most importantly, maintain control over the modifications made, all simultaneously. Each change is recorded in a traceable manner and can be reverted if necessary.

As their names suggest, both GitLab and GitHub are based on the Git version control software. This software uses repositories, where users upload the corresponding source code to later edit it collaboratively in the browser, code editors, or a terminal.

So, what does each offer?

GitLab vs. GitHub: What is GitLab?

GitLab was born in 2011 as a system for hosting Git repositories, i.e., a hosting service for projects managed in the Git version control system.

GitLab is a web-based collaborative development platform that provides tools for managing the software development life cycle, using Git as the version control system.

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Key features of GitLab

Git Repositories: Allows creating and managing Git repositories to maintain the source code of projects.

Version Control: Uses the Git version control system to track code changes and facilitate collaboration among developers.

Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD): Offers CI/CD features that automate tests and deployments whenever changes are pushed to the repository.

Issues and Incident Tracking: Provides an issue-tracking system that allows users to report bugs, request new features, and track pending tasks.

Wikis and Documentation: Offers wiki functionality for documenting projects and collaborating on content.

Permission Management: Provides a permission management system that enables project administrators to control who can access and make changes to repositories.

What is GitHub?

The code hosting platform and social network for developers and programmers were created by Chris Wanstrath, PJ Hyett, Tom Preston-Werner, and Scott Chacon in February 2008 in San Francisco.

GitHub allows users to collaborate on software projects, share and review source codes, track changes made to the code, and work collaboratively with other developers.

Key features of GitHub

Repositories: Projects are stored in repositories, which are spaces where the code and documentation of a particular project are kept.

Version Control: Uses the Git version control system to track and manage changes in the source code.

Collaboration: Developers can collaborate on projects by sharing their work, making changes, and proposing improvements through "pull requests." Other collaborators can review the changes and, if approved, integrate them into the project.

Issues and Incident Tracking: Users can report bugs, request new features, or ask questions in the issues section of a repository. This allows open communication and an organized way of managing project tasks.

Continuous Integration: Offers integration with development tools like Travis CI, CircleCI, and other services that enable automatic execution of tests and other tasks whenever new changes are pushed to the repository.

Wikis and Documentation: Provides features to maintain documentation and wikis associated with projects, facilitating understanding and collaboration.

Differences between GitHub and GitLab

While both tools (GitLab and GitHub) have many similarities and share several Git-based features, there are certain differences between GitLab and GitHub. GitHub, launched in 2008, is the largest in the category with over 40 million users.

GitHub projects can be both public and private. Publicly shared code is open and free (according to the license) for everyone on the Internet. Therefore, many developers use public repositories to share their open-source software on GitHub.

GitLab CI/CD and GitHub Actions:

GitLab's Continuous Integration/Delivery (CI/CD) saves developers a lot of time and provides excellent quality control. GitLab offers free CI/CD, avoiding the use of any external CI solutions.

In addition, GitLab provides a clear operations dashboard to help understand the needs associated with development and DevOps efforts. Therefore, GitLab addresses developers' issues better than GitHub in this regard.

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With GitLab, you have the option to set and modify permissions based on roles. On the other hand, in GitHub, you can only decide who to grant read/write access to a specific repository.

For example, with GitLab, you can set permissions for team members to access issue trackers without allowing them full access to the source code. This is very useful in large teams involving role-based collaborators.

At first glance, GitLab appears more organized and clear thanks to its well-structured user interface, which is why many users claim that its handling is simpler and more intuitive. In GitLab, elements are not only listed but can also be organized and managed in a desktop view.

Another significant advantage over GitHub is that GitLab's user interface (UI) is scalable and can adapt flexibly to the screen size, whereas GitHub only offers a fixed standard size. Therefore, when viewed on mobile terminals, GitLab is often the preferred choice as an alternative to GitHub.

As you have seen, there are differences between GitLab and GitHub, which, although not very significant, make them particularly suitable for different types of projects. If you already understand what each one offers, it depends on your preferences for which one to use based on your goals and needs.

In terms of immediate functionality and self-hosting, GitLab takes the lead. However, GitHub holds a unique position as a market leader. It boasts a much larger number of integrations and applications.