GitHub vs. GitLab—Which is Best for Open Source Projects?

Currently, repository management services—like GitHub and GitLab—are vital aspects of successfully developing software, either individually or collaboratively.

Without these services, it would be difficult to manage changes to open source projects while ensuring efficiency is maintained as development continues.

For example, Asitaka relies on GitHub for tracking source code changes and collaborating with other developers.

You can watch and learn from one of his projects where he creates a simple Instagram-like Android app in Kotlin here.

When looking for the best code management service for open source projects, developers usually compare between the two most popular platforms: GitHub vs. GitLab.

In this article, we’ll try to evaluate the two platforms to assist you to decide the best one for your projects.

What is GitHub?

What is GitHub?

As you probably know, GitHub, launched in 2008, is a git-based repository management platform that is the most popular in the world.

Although GitHub supports the hosting of open source code, it’s not completely open source. As of June 2008, GitHub reported to having more than 28 million users and 85 million code repositories, stumping its number one position in the industry.

In June 2008, Microsoft sent shockwaves across developers’ circles when it announced that it will acquire GitHub for $7.5 billion. Some developers backclashed because they thought that the tech giant would not maintain GitHub’s developer-first ethos.

Projects on the platform are publicly available. However, if you want to make your project private, you’ll need a paid GitHub plan—which starts at $7 and $9 per user per month for individual developers and teams respectively.

What is GitLab?

What is GitLab?

GitLab, launched in 2011, is another web-based git repository that is gaining traction among enthusiasts of open source projects. The platform’s Community Edition is open sourced, allowing developers to contribute to the enhancements of its features.

Unlike GitHub, GitLab offers free private repositories for open source projects. However, if you want to access more functionalities, you’ll need to go for the paid version, which starts at $4 per user per month.

When Microsoft announced that it will acquire GitHub, several developers moved their projects to other competing platforms, especially GitLab, which reported a huge surge in the number of imported repositories.

However, GitHub’s future CEO said that only an “extremely small number” of developers made a move.

Comparison between GitHub and GitLab

Comparing GitHub to GitLab is like comparing two twins; each is closely related with slight variations.

In fact, if you’re logged into GitHub’s website, you’ll have a difficult time thinking you are not on GitLab’s.

Over the years, the two repository management services have taken each other’s best features and integrated into their platforms.

Here are some of the basic features they share:

  • Pull request
  • 3rd party integrations
  • Fork/clone repositories
  • Code review
  • Code snippets
  • Issue tracking
  • Advanced permission management
  • Markdown support

Nonetheless, there are still differences between the code management repositories, something which can make you prefer one over the other.

In fact, while technically they are close to one another, the major differences are mostly regarding philosophy.

GitHub emphasizes on high availability and performance of its infrastructure and delegates other sophisticated functionalities to third-party tools. Conversely, GitLab focuses on including all features on one well-tried and well-integrated platform; it provides everything for the complete DevOps lifecycle under a single roof.

Regarding popularity, GitHub definitely beats GitLab pants down. GitLab has a fewer number of developers pushing open source codes to the platform; though the recent GitHub acquisition gave it some upsurge.

Additionally, regarding pricing, GitHub is more expensive, something that makes it unsuitable for users with low budgets.

So, which one is best?

Deciding between GitHub and GitLab for open source projects can be difficult, just like it can be difficult for a stranger to differentiate between twins.

However, with a bit of underground digging, you can make a good decision.

For example, if you are working with a large open source project that involves collaboration with several developers, GitHub could be your best choice.

You’ll find a big and vibrant community on GitHub that can assist you in completing your project.

On the other hand, if you are working on a project where price is an issue, and high performance is not emphasized, then going for GitLab can assist you to save costs.

Furthermore, if you want a platform that is truly open source, then GitLab could be great for your project.

Also, do you like using third-party tools for Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD) in your open source projects?

Or, do you prefer built-in tools that will not require separate installing?

If you like using pre-integrated tools for CI and CD purposes, then GitLab can serve you better; otherwise, go for GitHub.

Wrapping up

Ultimately, the choice between GitLab vs. GitHub depends on the specific objectives you intend to achieve with your open source programming project.

Therefore, you should carefully evaluate your expectations and go for a repository management platform that best suits your needs.

Or, which one do you prefer between GitHub and GitLab?

Please share your thoughts below.

About author

I, Dr. Michael J. Garbade is the co-founder of the Education Ecosystem (aka LiveEdu), ex-Amazon, GE, Rebate Networks, Y-combinator. Python, Django, and DevOps Engineer. Serial Entrepreneur. Experienced in raising venture funding. I speak English and German as mother tongues. I have a Masters in Business Administration and Physics, and a Ph.D. in Venture Capital Financing. Currently, I am the Project Lead on the community project -Nationalcoronalvirus Hotline I write subject matter expert technical and business articles in leading blogs like,, Cybrary, Businessinsider,, TechinAsia, Coindesk, and Cointelegraph. I am a frequent speaker and panelist at tech and blockchain conferences around the globe. I serve as a start-up mentor at Axel Springer Accelerator, NY Edtech Accelerator, Seedstars, and Learnlaunch Accelerator. I love hackathons and often serve as a technical judge on hackathon panels.