GitLab calls itself the open-source GitHub that companies can run on their own servers. Like GitHub, it offers an open source git repository. Also like GitHub, it has a cat creature mascot.
“But sometimes you want your hub protected on your own servers, behind your own firewall for certain geographic reasons,” Dutch co-founder of GitLab Sytse Sijbrandij told me over the phone from the apartment he shares with his co-founder Dmitriy Zaporozhets in Mountain View, California. Of course, GitHub also offers this feature with its Enterprise version.
I’m no programmer so forgive me if I’m missing something but other than that GitHub has been around longer and thus has a larger community, the two seem pretty hard to distinguish. Right on its homepage, GitLab even claims it is “better than GitHub,” and it had to write a blog post explaining the difference between the two.
“It’s better because the GitLab version is easier to scale and modify,” Sijbrandij explained to me. You can make changes to GitLab, on an Enterprise Edition license or install a different type of web-server, for instance. You can also do this with GitHub Enterprise.
I turned to the programmers for help. There are dozens of discussions about GitLab versus GitHub on Reddit, Quora and Product Hunt. A friend showed me a private discussion on Slack discussing the two as well.
The common thread in favor of GitLab is that it integrates well with DigitalOcean servers and is the cheaper option. Those in favor of GitHub say it is better for the support and community in the long run and that the price isn’t that much higher. But both sides seem to agree there is a pretty strong similarity between the two.
GitLab starts at $19.90 a year per user. It’s $10 a month on Digital Ocean’s most popular plan. GitHub doesn’t share upfront pricing information for Enterprise on its site. However, a Quora post from a GitHub user notes GitHub’s Enterprise pricing is $21 per month.
GitLab claims NASA, SpaceX, O’Reilly Media, AT&T, Comcast and IBM as users of GitLab and says it has been downloaded half a million times since it launched in 2011.
Update: GitLab has acquired open source hosting and enterprise Git management competitor Gitorious.
“At Gitorious we saw more and more organizations adopting GitLab,” CEO of Gitorious stated on the GitLab blog. “Due to decreased income from on-premises customers, running the free Gitorious.org was no longer sustainable.”
GitLab plans to shut down the Gitorious site on June 1.