GitHub vs. GitLab vs. Bitbucket – How Are They Different?

github vs gitlab vs bitbucket header image

Teamwork is an important part of software development. In most cases, teams often work together and use the code written by their colleagues to incrementally improve and build new software.

But with constant changes, it can be difficult to know how the code has evolved over time. That’s where version control systems come into play. Version control systems allow users to document changes to existing code, amend it, and upload new versions for others to tinker with. 

Project hosting services like GitHub, GitLab, or Bitbucket allow companies to work on code, create multiple versions, and track its development over time. 

In this article, we are going to talk about the most popular version control systems out there, including GitHub, GitLab, and Bitbucket, and see what sets them apart. 

GitHub, GitLab, Bitbucket — What Are They?

Before we go into the differences, let’s talk about what each of these platforms really are, and what they do.

GitHub

github homepage

GitHub is the most popular version control system in the world. It’s a Git-based version control platform that hosts 83 million developers, and more than 200+ million project repositories. It’s widely used in the open-source community for tracking changes to code. 

GitHub is popular because of its simplistic user interface, and it also allows developers to work seamlessly with Git-based algorithms. Its speed and efficiency are two major reasons why so many developers prefer working with GitHub.

As far as cost is concerned, GitHub is free to use for the average user, but for larger corporations that need access to private repositories, the price differs based on the number of users. 

(For more information read our article “What is GitHub & How Does It Work?”)

GitLab

gitlab homepage

Gitlab was founded as a competitor to GitHub in 2011 and rose to popularity because of its simplistic user interface. Many teams have started switching to GitLab more recently as it offers support for containerization platforms such as Docker and integrated CI. 

Bitbucket

bitbucket homepage

Then you have Bitbucket. It launched in 2008, but in the beginning, it was only compatible with Mercurial Projects – another version control system. In 2011, Bitbucket was acquired by Atlassian and transitioned to using Git instead.

Bitbucket is just one of many tools in Atlassian’s arsenal since they also own other software-focused tools like Confluence and Jira. As you can imagine, Bitbucket integrates neatly with other Atlassian tools. 

GitHub vs. GitLab vs. Bitbucket — The Main Differences 

So let’s now take a close look at the main differences between GitHub, GitLab, and Bitbucket. 

FeaturesGitHubGitLabBitbucket
Free private repositoriesYesYesYes
Free public repositoriesYesYesYes
Merge Request/Issue TemplatesYesYesNo
Integrated CINoYesYes
Open-sourceNoYesNo
File storageYesYesYes
IntegrationsYesYesYes
AnalyticsNoYesYes

GitHub’s Main Features

Some of the main reasons why GitHub is so popular is because it offers repository branching and forking, lets you clone an entire codebase, and use both pull and merge requests. 

Ownership

Development on GitHub started in 2007. It was originally launched by three software developers as a flat organization with no middle management whatsoever. It was a fully bootstrapped company. 

By 2012, Microsoft was hosting most of its projects on GitHub, including some of its biggest open-source projects such as .NET Core, MSBuild, PowerShell, and Visual Studio Code. In 2018, the company decided to purchase GitHub for $7.5 billion.

Speed

It’s also incredibly fast, resolving requests quickly, and allowing developers to upload files to different repositories. GitHub is free to use for all personal accounts, and they made private repositories free for unlimited collaborators too. 

Simplified Project Management

GitHub offers support for kanban boards to help you structure and streamline your software development workflow. It also lets developers quickly synchronize merged versions, resolve issues, and track changes more conveniently.

Integrations and Language Support

Currently, GitHub supports more than 200 programming languages, and because it’s so popular in the developer community, it also has dedicated integrations available for popular platforms such as Google Cloud, Windows Azure, Asana, AWS, and others. 

Popularity

GitHub is by far the most popular version control system in use today. It has certain features that you won’t find in BitBucket, such as syntax highlighting, and GitHub Pages, which lets you host sites on GitHub only. 

Support

Again, owing to its popularity, support from the GitHub community is massive. You can find guides, tutorials, and extensive documentation about virtually anything you’d want to know about the platform. 

GitLab

Now, let’s talk about GitLab and how it sets itself apart from the competition.

Ownership

GitLab was founded by alumni from the Winter 2015 batch of the Y Combinator seed programme. It was built around the software project of the same name and was originally launched by two developers in Ukraine. 

The company raised seed funding from Khosla Ventures $4 million in September 2015. Another $20 million followed from August Capital in the subsequent year. And, in 2021, GitLab Inc., its parent company, had its IPO on NASDAQ.

Compliance Control

One of the major benefits of using GitLab is that it comes with compliance control built in. It runs security scans automatically and has compliance pipelines to ensure that standards are imposed on the entire codebase. 

Managing Permissions

GitLab lets you define and modify permissions for individuals based on their roles. You can also attach files to specific issues, which isn’t possible with GitHub.

Issue Tracking

GitLab’s administration solutions are designed to help software developers trace issues throughout the lifecycle of the project. Users can create new issues using the Issue Board, and assign them to team members. 

GitLab Flow

GitLab Flow is a Continuous Integration (CI) tool that lets users automate code testing using various tools. It’s a great way to ensure that your code remains free of any bugs or major issues. 

Bitbucket

Bitbutcket is the oldest tool on this list and is used by many software development companies. Here are some key differentiators. 

Ownership

Bitbucket was launched as an independent company in 2008, working primarily with Mercurial Projects. In 2010 however, Atlassian acquired the company. Today, Bitbucket is a key part of Atlassian’s software offering.

Integrations

One of the things that sets Bitbucket apart from the rest is how seamlessly it integrates with tools like Jira, an issue-tracking software. This was also developed by Atlassian, and so unsurprisingly Bitbucket integrates perfectly with Jira to improve version control and bug tracking. 

Code Review

When you send a pull request in Bitbucket, it shows the test results of security scans directly in a visual format, making it easier for users to analyze the code. Everything’s presented on one page, which reduces back-and-forth.

Source Control

Developers can easily track changes to the source files of a project, which makes it easy to determine what stage of the project the team is at. This also makes it easier for distributed teams to collaborate with others.

REST APIs

Bitbucket offers REST APIs that make it easy for developers to start building third-party apps using different programming languages. 

Code Snippets

Developers can share code snippets and files with each other, allowing them to quickly get feedback and resolve issues. 

After Action Report — Which Version Control System Do You Use?

These are three of the most popular version control systems available today. Most companies generally prefer using GitHub because it’s easy to use and lets users create their portfolios. 

However, some organizations also prefer GitLab and Bitbucket, especially those which use Jira and other Atlassian products. 

Which version control system do you use? Let us know & join the conversation by leaving a comment below!💬

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