In this post, we compare GitHub, GitLab, and BitBucket—and help you choose the tool that best fits your requirements.
GitHub, GitLab, and BitBucket are three of the leading web-based Git repository services.
At the end of the day, they all kind of offer the same thing:
- Version control system
- Codebase storage
- Built-in security
- Active communities
So what’s the difference, exactly? Let’s dive in and find out.
GitHub vs. GitLab vs. BitBucket: What’s the difference?
All three are popular Git repository services, with version control and security built-in and active communities supporting them.
GitHub is the most popular, with an active community of 100 million developers. It hosts 372 million repositories and is a favorite for open-source projects, with 28 million public repositories. It also provides robust CI/CD pipelines.
GitLab is similar, providing hosting for code repositories. With that said, it offers a more comprehensive suite of DevOps tools (security testing, monitoring, and more) than its alternatives.
Now, let’s see how they compare.
GitHub allows developers to host and review code, collaborate on projects, and track changes over time.
The platform boasts a large community and offers plenty of tools for developers to work more efficiently:
- Repository management and hosting
- Code review
- Issue tracker
- Integrated CI/CD tools such as Jenkins, Travis CI, CircleCI, and more
This is just some of their main features—GitHub keeps at the cutting edge of development with GitHub Copilot X, an AI pair programmer.
The main difference: Large community and easy to use
The main difference, and one of the reasons GitHub’s so popular, is its large and active community⏤of over 100 million devs⏤and ease of use.
GitHub’s collaborative features make it perfect for open-source projects, remote teams, and dev teams working on projects in collaboration with outsourced providers—or in-house!
And if you need some help using GitHub? Chances are, there’s a wiki, forum, tutorials, or solution to your problem on the platform—or a link to an answer on Reddit.
Even if you can’t find an answer, GitHub provides support, and there are millions of other devs you can ask on the platform.
What does GitHub offer that GitLab and BitBucket don’t?
GitHub offers an extensive range of features that other platforms don’t. Such as:
- GitHub Issues: project management tools are included alongside code repositories, including issue tracking.
- Pull request review process: as part of the platform's version control, product managers and project leaders can monitor pull requests more effectively.
- GitHub Actions: automate your build, test, and deployment workflows using secure CI/CD features.
- Social features: know who’s following your work, communicate, collaborate on code, and receive notifications. Contribute to forums and groups. Take part in the most active dev community on the planet.
- Extensive wikis for every public and private codebase so that it’s easy to document product development and collaborate on projects.
- Project milestones: make collaboration easier with project milestones that align with your product roadmap.
- GitHub Copilot X, an AI pair programmer using OpenAI’s GPT-4, will make it easier for devs to write code, support pull requests, and integrate AI-powered software development into workflows.
- Advanced security: make apps and products more secure with GitHub Advanced Security. Scan your source code for security weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
GitHub pricing starts free (2000 CI/CD minutes/month and 500MB), with premium tiers from $4/mo per user (Team) or $21/mo per user for the Enterprise version (which includes self-hosted repos).
For those developing open-source projects, the free plan lets you host unlimited public/private repositories accessible via the web version or command line.
Need a bug-tracking tool that auto-syncs with GitHub?
Check out Marker.io’s GitHub integration.
GitLab is another popular code repository platform—but it comes equipped with a more extensive suite of DevOps solutions.
It was originally launched as a GitHub alternative.
The main difference: A comprehensive suite of DevOps tools
While the other platforms do offer DevOps tools, this is what GitLab is known for. More specifically, they pride themselves in providing DevSecOps functionality (integrating security into the software development lifecycle).
What does GitLab offer that GitHub and BitBucket don’t?
- Automation features from planning to governance and every step in between.
- Custom workflows: design and deliver a project management system in GitLab that aligns with internal workflows and processes.
- Scalability: can handle enterprise-level dev cycles, security, and deployments.
- Container registry: keep a track of your software containers.
- Code review: have a 360° overview of every line of code, what people are working on, and a robust CI/CD pipeline and review process.
- Customizable issue tracking and PM tools: because product/project managers and agency owners can manage entire projects in GitLab, it comes with PM tools and issue tracking. Or you can integrate GitLab with the tools you’re already using.
- Security scanning: before and after deployment, ensure every line of code is as secure as possible. Protect your product, app, or SaaS from security weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
GitLab pricing starts free (400 compute credits, 5GB storage), with premium tiers from $29/mo (Premium: 1 user) up to $99/mo per user (Ultimate).
For open-source projects, GitLab offers free Ultimate licenses, along with 50K compute credits/month. This is for qualifying open-source projects, education institutions, or startups.
Need a bug-tracking tool that auto-syncs with GitLab?
Check out Marker.io’s GitLab integration.
BitBucket is a native code repository and change management solution that integrates with Atlassian products, such as Jira, Confluence, and others.
It’s built by Atlassian, so it’s somewhat different from the other platforms in this article.
The main difference: Powerful integrations with Jira & Confluence
One of the main reasons for using BitBucket is the integrations with Jira, Confluence, and other Atlassian products.
If your team is already using Atlassian, or developing software or plugins that integrate with them, then BitBucket is a useful code repository solution.
What does BitBucket offer that GitHub and GitLab don’t?
Other features that BitBucket has that the others don’t include:
- Integrated issue tracking and project management solutions, natively compatible with Jira.
- Native support for Mercurial, while GitHub & GitLab only support Git.
- Private code repositories (similar to the others, but Atlassian focused).
- Code insights, giving team members more visibility into code quality via performance metrics and code review analytics.
- Advanced branch permissions for code review and greater security.
BitBucket offers a very limited free option, with pricing from $15/mo for 1 user. What you pay depends on the number of people who need access, so a team of 15 would only pay $45/mo on the Standard plan or $60 on the Premium.
Atlassian does provide free community and academic subscriptions, albeit not as extensive as GitHub or BitBucket, so probably not ideal for open-source projects.
Need a bug-tracking tool that auto-syncs with BitBucket?
Check out Marker.io’s BitBucket integration.
GitHub vs. GitLab vs. BitBucket: Full Comparison Table
Conclusion: Which tool should you choose?
For an intuitive UI and ease of use, as well as a large community, GitHub beats the other's hands down.
For DevSecOps teams, GitLab has the widest and most robust suite of tools. It has a medium-sized community but is not anywhere near as active as GitHub.
BitBucket is useful for those who either need extensive Jira or Confluence integrations or are developing software specifically for the Atlassian ecosystem.
For the majority of use cases, whether open-source or developing a commercial project, GitHub is the clear winner.
We hope you found this comparison guide useful!