Git vs. GitHub

Naming conventions aren’t the most innovative in the programming world. That’s why you should understand the connections and differences between the similarly named Git and GitHub.

Broadly speaking, GitHub is a cloud-based hosting service that helps you manage Git repositories. If you use Git for your open-source projects, you can use GitHub to manage these projects better.

Both Git and GitHub give developers and programmers version-control functionality.

This valuable feature ensures they can build ongoing coding projects without having to worry about messing up the code and starting from scratch. The only thing here is GitHub offers more functionality and resources when compared to Git, along with the facility to easily store and collaborate on projects online.

But are Git and GitHub the same thing? Answer: Not at all.

This Nira guide will go into more detail about the Git vs. GitHub debate and help understand both terms more clearly.

Git vs. GitHub: Definitions

Before we discuss the definitions of Git and GitHub, you must understand version control.

Version control is a system that records changes made to a file or a set of files over time (also known as “versions”). These versions allow you to keep track of all changes made to your code or projects, and if necessary, undo those changes as well.

Essentially, version control enables you to compare, differentiate, and revert changes between two versions of a specific project. It’s a feature that becomes really valuable when working on a larger project that has more people working on the same code.

The whole system that controls the versioning of the codes is called a version control system (VCS).

Now that you know what version control is, you’ll find it easy to understand Git and GitHub.

What is Git?

Git is the version control software you install on your local system to track and record a project at every step. It’s an acronym for a Global Information Tracker.

The tool was designed to assist programmers to work in coordination and track changes in any file associated with the local directory. Unlike other version control systems, Git is fast, convenient, and free of cost.

If you work individually, you’ll find Git excellent and adequate, but when you’re working on a long-term project with a large team, it won’t be enough. This is because each person working on the project will have a different version of the same project, which also increases the chances of conflicts.

That’s where GitHub comes into the picture.

What is GitHub?

Git is a VCS that tracks all changes when working on computer codes. On the other hand, GitHub is a web-based Git version control repository hosting service. It gives all of the distributed version control and source code management (SCM) features associated with Git, along with certain extra features of its own.

GitHub makes it easier for developers to store their projects and connect with other like-minded developers. And unlike Git, it’s a for-profit service but one can get basic repository-hosting features at no cost.

What’s more, GitHub expands upon Git‘s basic functionality by presenting an intuitive, graphically represented user interface and offers developers useful tools like built-in control and task management tools.

Also, as GitHub is cloud-based, Git repositories can be accessed by any authorized person, from any computer located anywhere in the world. The only requirement is a reliable internet connection.

Git vs. GitHub: Feature List

Below, we’ll detail the more prominent features of both Git and GitHub individually. Let’s take a look.

Features of Git

  • Distribution: Git has a distributed system and allows multiple people to work on a project simultaneously while ensuring no interference from the other. Once complete, a user can push or transfer his part of the work to a Git repository, and others can pull it locally from the same.
  • Security: Git records all the commits done by the users on their local copy. It uses a cryptographic algorithm called SHA1 to store the developer’s data. At the same time, it also diagnoses the issues through the log entries.
  • Branching: Git lets users work parallel to each other on different domains through branching. Thanks to this feature, multiple users can try the same features in different ways and then merge the one they feel is best to the main branch. Branching and merging may sound complicated but are simple through a few Git commands. Users can create any number of branches for a single project.

Features of GitHub

GitHub has tons of amazing features, most of which are designed to expand the functions of Git. GitHub’s user interface lets users do practically everything that Git does—but without the need to write the Git commands.

Collaboration between developers, programmers, and other collaborators is definitely easier. Plus, people can address issues faster which makes remote working more efficient.

Apart from these features, GitHub also offers additional features that are beneficial with regard to source code management and good reviews. Some of these include:

  • GitHub Gist: Immediate sharing of “snippets and notes
  • GitHub Flow: Workflow designed to track all the branch-based activities at periodic intervals.
  • GitHub Pages: Static web page deployment to pull over data and changes from a specific repository.
  • GitHub Students Developer Pack: Includes cloud resources, developer tools, and programming tools to help students learn coding, GitHub, and Git.

Git vs. GitHub: Differences

In this section, we’ll review the different aspects where Git and GitHub differ from each other.

Different Functionalities

The main difference between Git and GitHub is the functionality.

While both provide source code management and simplify sharing and merging code, this is where the similarities end. Every developer that has Git installed on their local devices can collaborate with each other, with Git keeping a history of commits and letting them reverse changes and share code.

Remember the additional services we mentioned GitHub has in addition to Git’s DVCS SCM? This includes collaboration features, such as bug tracking, project management, and support ticket management. This allows developers to share their repositories, get access to other developers’ repositories, and store remote copies of repositories to serve as backups.

Different Working Environments

Git is installed locally on a system so that developers can manage their source code history directly using their local machines as repositories. As such, there’s no need for a centralized server or an internet connection to use Git. A user-management system and a proprietary desktop GUI are also absent.

Contrarily, GitHub is a cloud-based service, which means internet access is mandatory. It also has a built-in user management system and a user-friendly GUI, complete with a desktop version that can be installed on local computers to help developers collaborate.

Note that while you can use Git without GitHub, GitHub cannot be used without Git. In fact, GitHub was mainly built to work with Git.

Different Ways to Handle Commands

Git developers perform a command-line tool that changes code like commit and merge within the Git tool on their respective local devices.

This isn’t the case with GitHub, which provides its cloud-based graphical interface to perform these tasks. Plus, it provides developers with task management tools, collaboration features, and access control.

In terms of commands, Git focuses exclusively on the SCM tasks, including commit, fetch, reset, push and pull, and merge. On the other hand, GitHub serves as a host for Git repository terms to store the code in a centralized location. Basically, while Git is a tool developers use to manage multiple versions of source code edits (that are then transferred to files in a Git repository), GitHub serves as a location for uploading copies of a Git repository.

Therefore, there’s no need to choose between Git and GitHub. Instead of competing with each other, both complement the other.

Different Ownership and Competitors

Git was released back in 2005 and has remained an open-source tool since then. It’s maintained by the Linux Foundation as part of the open-source ecosystem of tools and technologies. Being a DVCS, Git faces serious competition from IBM, ClearCase, and Mercurial.

GitHub was launched as a company in 2008 and was later acquired by Microsoft in 2018. On the competition end, the service’s competition is wildly different from Git since it’s a SaaS platform and includes renowned names like GitLab and Bitbucket.

Git vs. GitHub: Differences In a Nutshell

Git is a local version of a software tool that allows developers to save snapshots of their projects over time and is meant for individual use. On the other hand, GitHub is a web-based platform that incorporates Git’s version control features to ensure better collaboration between developers. It also includes team and project management features, as well as social coding and networking features.

Git vs. GitHub: What is Better?

Both Git and GitHub are capable of running independently, but for best results, it’s better to use them together.

Using Git is fairly easy for a non-programmer, but as a programmer, learning Git commands is a no-brainer. For developers working individually on projects, using Git is better. However, when developers are working in collaboration, Git and GitHub are the same.

Keeping this in mind, it’s better for a developer to learn both Git and GitHub and use them together for the best results.

Git vs. GitHub: Summary

As you now know, Git and GitHub aren’t the same, but neither are they competing platforms. They are meant to be used hand in hand to make collaboration easy and boost productivity.

Understanding the differences between Git and GitHub can be slightly confusing initially. But once you get the basics down, you’ll be able to differentiate between the two better for development purposes. Here’s an at-a-glance review of both Git and GitHub:

  • Git is a software, while GitHub is the service
  • Git is a command-line tool, while GitHub is a graphical user interface.
  • Git is installed on local systems, whereas GitHub is hosted on the Web.
  • Linux maintains Git; Microsoft recently acquired GitHub.
  • Git‘s main focus is version control and code sharing; GitHub focused on centralized source-code hosting.
  • Git is a version control system designed to manage source code history and has no user management feature; GitHub is a hosting service for Git repositories and has a built-in user management feature.

We hope this guide helped you understand Git vs. GitHub better and that you can distinguish clearly between the two. For better outcomes, we highly recommend using both platforms hand in hand, plus this way, you can also avoid conflict between team members and improve efficiency.

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Bryan Wise
Bryan Wise,
Former VP of IT at GitLab

Incredible companies use Nira