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GitLab vs. GitHub: What are the key differences?

William Tsu
Data Analyst
Experienced data analyst working with data visualization, cloud computing and ETL solutions.
April 10, 2020


As is well known, DevOps comprise a set of practices that helps in automation of web or mobile app development through certain processes between software development as well as IT teams. These processes are done to build, test, and release software updates faster and reliably. The various promises of DevOps practices include faster software releases, increased work ethics, trust, and quality, ability to solve various critical issues quickly; also, better managing the unplanned work. In brief, DevOps is a tight collaboration between software development and operations for more efficiency as well as faster innovations, which in turn adds more value to the businesses and customers.

DevOps is performed in 3 distinct steps. These include Continuous Integration, Continuous Development, and Continuous Deployment approaches (CI/CD approach). CI (Continuous Integration) works by testing the apps and assessing its quality as well as usability in the market. CD (Continuous Development) deals with identifying the weak areas of the apps and rectifying those. Continuous Deployment aids in deploying various upgrades and updates in real-time faster and efficiently. With this CI/CD approach, DevOps automates the entire web and mobile app development; thus, making it error-free and easier than when done manually.

GitLab and GitHub

The researches show that version control repositories are a big deal for the Software Development Lifecycles (SDLC). In recent years, GitLab and GitHub have established themselves as the go-to DevOps tools, which the app software developers are starting to favor more and more. The GitLab and GitHub are web-based repositories.

Version Control Repository Management Services

The version control repository management services deal with software components that handle as well as track changes made to any information in the software or programs. For instance, all the real-life projects need such a tracking system as several programmers are working simultaneously on the same. Git ensures there are no code overlaps as well as conflicts.

Version control systems aid in effective changes that are a requirement for various SDLC environments. These systems help software developers to track codes for thorough check-ups; helpful in case of needing any useful modifications, improvisations, or improvements without reworking of entire codebases. As is known, any software development needs a team that collaborates and works as one with frequent code modifications to get it right.

Advantages of the version control system, as well as its repository management, are as follows:

• Streamlining of the entire development process.

• The code management for multiple projects at once.

•The upkeep of a clean history for all code changes within the software.

The version control systems keep all its changes in the repository as it is easier for tracking of these modifications for future purposes. These systems also allow developers to revert to the old code if necessary. A major advantage includes the reduction of human errors via automation of processes through the version management services. Software development tools such as Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) are used for automation purposes.

Two types of version control systems are available and these include client-server as well as distributed. In the first type, that is client-server, software developers use a shared single repository and focus on a single point of failure at a time. The changes made are shared among various repositories separately while keeping full copies of the source code at each instance point. Version control systems are essential for the success of highly collaborative software development projects as it ensures high quality and effective management of the same.

Git: A Version Control System

Git is the most commonly used version control system as of today and the defacto standard solution trusted by all software developers in unison. Git works by tracking changes in source code during SDLCs as its properties include toolkit based design, supports non-linear as well as distributed development. Git efficiently handles any kind of project, especially large ones. This version control system is now a mature, open-source and free entity.

Workings of Git

Git works by creating a commit: a snapshot of all files at a certain or specific point in time during the software development. The commit is created when a software developer saves a newly created piece of code. Links are designed between various such commits and this forms a visual path of the app development history. Git is a flexible version control system as software developers can revert to previous versions for making changes as and when needed. IDEs seamlessly integrate with Git and helps in easing the process of software development.

GitLab vs GitHub


GitLab provides a web-based DevOps internal management of Git repositories. This comes in two versions: free community edition as well as a paid enterprise edition. The necessary features for successfully managing software development processes such as CI runner, binary attachments and Jira integration, are included in GitLab. This version control repository system is written in the Ruby programming language. GitLab is known to offer open-core development as well as open-source solutions. A lot of software development tools can get integrated into GitLab easily, it becomes a reliable source to cross-reference codes, tests as well as deployments. The process happens with full visibility to software developers for relevant iterations and improvements.


A development platform, the software developers use for storing the projects, GitHub is also used for web hosting. Some of the features of GitHub include effective bug tracking, task management, and feature requests to name a few. The platform, GitHub is mainly used for codes due to its built-in tools and aids in reviewing as well as improving the same. Some of the other features of GitHub include code sharing among multiple people and providing apt tools for the social coding process.

As we have looked into what is GitLab and GitHub individually, let's observe and find out the various similarities:

Tracking: Both GitLab and GitHub are good at issue tracking capabilities, which enables status changes as well as the ability for assigning experts to each problem that arises. Instant bug reports are sent to software developers easily via both GitLab and GitHub.

Integrations: The integrations aid in strengthening of workflows and boost productivity. GitLab is known for allowing numerous integrations for software development as well as DevOps teams.

Labels: These labels help in tagging and categorizing issues, and merging requests for the ease of solving these problems; a very helpful tracking indeed. Description templates can be added for detailed identification and effective communication.

Edits: GitLab and GitHub allow upstream maintainers for collaborations to happen on a source branch. This also aids in editing into a fork; thereby, maintainers can do small fixes or rebase branches for effective merging.

The context of a website gets further indicated by specific URLs: a way that both search engines and people can locate the required websites as per the various needs that arise. SEO helps with identifying and ranking the best URLs, which makes it easier to do a keyword-based search.

Revert Commits: Both GitLab and GitHub are adept in reverting commits, which can be useful under certain circumstances.

Differences between GitLab and GitHub

GitLab offers a built-in Continuous Integration and delivery for free; whereas GitHub offers effective third-party integrations. Very effective tactics that enable efficient CI/CD approach for DevOps based applications.

Authentication is granted based on various roles undertaken by developers. In GitHub, developers can grant authentication for accessing specific repositories.

GitLab is efficient in offering more detailed documentation on the import and export of data from external vendors. Also, GitLab is adept in importing various projects as well as issues that are much more than GitHub. GitHub importer is used by GitHub to import the required data. GitLab is a much more rounded tool than GitHub in this regard.

GitLab comes with a deployment platform whereas GitHub does not. Also, GitLab offers various private repositories. GitHub is good with comment tracking; while, GitLab is not. In the platform GitLab, issues can be transported seamlessly between the projects. GitLab is good with CSV file exports as well. Also, this platform, GitLab, is good at creating confidential issues that have to be seen only by certain developers or experts. Through GitLab, developers can assign weights to various issues and manage them through Agile practices.

GitLab is adept in collecting as well as displaying performance metrics for various applications; which aids in determining the impact of a merge and monitor system.

GitLab gets updated monthly with new features as well as improvements. This version control system can run on bare metal servers and thus, makes it easy for horizontal scaling.

GitLab is features oriented whereas GitHub is based on high availability and infrastructure performance. Overall, GitLab is a more robust application that can be used for DevOps based applications.

Wrapping it up

The above mentioned are the key elements that are involved in a GitLab vs. GitHub discussion or debate (however, you want to look at it!). As can be observed from the discussion, GitLab is a much more useful version control system platform than GitHub. This difference is because of two different philosophies as mentioned before. Similarities off both GitLab and GitHub are noted down for comparison. Also, the key differences are mentioned, when we compare both GitLab with GitHub.