Git vs GitHub: What are the Major Differences?

There’s a common misconception that someone could use Git or GitHub and have the same experience. But ask any developer, and they will tell you that these are two completely different entities. For one, they perform different functions and serve different purposes. They aren’t even owned by the same company (despite the name). So what are Git and GitHub exactly, and what is the difference between Git and GitHub as software tools and services?

Let’s dive into the Git vs GitHub discussion in more detail.

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Git and GitHub Operate Completely Differently

The main Git vs GitHub difference is in their functionality. While they both provide source code management (SCM) and make merging and sharing code easier, this is pretty much where their similarities end. Think of Git as a single computer and GitHub as a network of multiple interconnected computers, all with the same end goal but a wildly different role for how to get there.

At its core, Git is a free, open-source software distributed version control system (DVCS) designed to manage all source code history. It can keep a history of commits, can reverse changes, and lets developers share code. Each developer must have Git installed on his or her local device to collaborate. It is commonly referred to as one of the best DevOps tools to understand and use in the developer space, and it’s among the most widely used tools today. Companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft use it, to name a few.

GitHub, on the other hand, is a web-based hosting service for Git repositories. It offers all of Git’s DVCS SCM and has some additional features. This includes collaboration functionality like project management, support ticket management, and bug tracking. With GitHub, developers can share their repositories, access other developers’ repositories, and store remote copies of repositories to serve as backups.

They Work in Different Environments

Another difference in comparison of Git vs GitHub is that the environment in which they operate. Git is installed locally on a system, so developers can manage their source code history using their local machines as repositories. This means there is no centralized server required to use Git, and no needed internet access either. Additionally, there’s no user-management system available and a proprietary desktop GUI.

GitHub, meanwhile, lives in the cloud, so Internet access is required. It also has a built-in user-management system and a user-friendly GUI. In addition to its main website, GitHub features a desktop version that can be installed on local computers to help synchronize code. It should be noted that Git can be used without GitHub, but GitHub cannot be used without Git. (GitHub primarily was built to work correctly with Git.)

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Both Git and GitHub Handle Commands Differently

Git developers themselves perform a command-line tool where code changes like commit and merge within the Git tool on their own local devices. By contrast, GitHub provides its cloud-based graphical interface where these tasks are performed. The interface also offers developers access control, collaboration features, and various task-management tools.

When it comes to commands, Git focuses exclusively on SCM tasks like push and pull, commit, reset, fetch, and merge. GitHub, meanwhile, serves as a host for Git repository teams to store their code in a centralized location. While Git is a tool that’s used 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.

In a sense, then, there’s no comparison when it comes to Git vs. GitHub as far as their function. They complement rather than compete with each other in this space.

They’re Owned by Different Companies

Git has remained an open-source tool since it was first released in 2005. To this day, it is maintained by the Linux Foundation as part of the open-source ecosystem of tools and technologies (the Linux founder also created Git). By contrast, GitHub was launched as a company in 2008 and acquired by Microsoft in 2018.

They Have Different Competitors

While there are some advantages of Git as a DVCS, it does have some significant competition. This includes Mercurial, IBM, Subversion, and ClearCase. GitHub’s competition is wildly different due to its software-as-a-service (SaaS) focus and includes companies like GitLab and Bitbucket.

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