Git vs GitHub: What's the Difference?

Danielle Ellis
Danielle Ellis

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If you're a developer, you've probably heard of Git and GitHub. But what are they, and what's the difference? The first answer is version control.

Person presenting the difference between git vs github

Any developer who has worked on a project with multiple team members knows the importance of version control. When more than one person is working on a codebase, it's essential to have a way to track changes and ensure that everyone is working off of the same version of the code.  

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In this blog post, we'll take a closer look at Git compared to Github and see why it is so popular among developers. Let's start by learning version control.

What is version control?

A version control system (VCS), allows you to track changes to your code over time. It's essential for developers who often need to work on the same codebase concurrently. It gives them a way to undo mistakes, track changes, and collaborate with others on code. However, anyone who regularly works with files that change can benefit from using version control.

There are many version control systems offered, but Git is by far the most popular. In 2018, a survey of more than 100,000 developers found that Git was the VCS used by 78.0% of respondents. This is because Git is a distributed version control system, which means that it doesn't rely on a central server. This makes Git more flexible than other VCSs, and it's also why Git is the VCS of choice for open-source projects.

VCS allows developers to access the project's history in order to find answers to questions such as: What changes were made? Who made them? When did they occur? What was the purpose of the modifications?

Let's explore the differences between Git and GitHub now that you know the fundamentals of version control.

What is Git?

Git is the most popular VCS in use today, created by Linus Torvalds in 2005. It is free, open-source, and designed to handle everything from small to very large projects with speed and efficiency. Its flexible architecture means it can be effectively integrated into your workflow. For example, you can use Git to manage all your project's files or just a few files that are important to you.

Git supports distributed development which gives each developer a full history of their code changes locally. Git also allows for non-linear development by allowing developers to work on different branches of code simultaneously and merge them together when ready.

Basic Git Commands  

A Git command is a string of text that tells Git what to do. Each Git command does a different task, but they all work together to help developers manage their code changes.

Here are some common git commands:

  • git init: Initialize a new git repository. This is the first command you should run when starting a new project.
  • git clone:  Clone an existing git repository. This command allows you to create a local copy of a remote repository.
  • git add: Add files to a repository. This command allows you to add new files or changes to already existing files to a git repository.
  • git commit: Make changes to a repository. This command saves your changes to the git history.
  • git push: Push changes to a git remote repository. This command pushes your local commits to a remote git repository.
  • git pull: Pull changes from a git remote repository. This command pulls down any remote changes and incorporates them into your local git repository.
  • git status: Check the status of your git repository. This will let you know which files have been modified and which files are being tracked by git.
  • git log: View the commit history for your git repository. This is useful for finding out when certain changes were made and who made them.
  • git reset:  Reset your git repository to a specific commit. This command allows you to undo changes to a file or reset your git history.

How to Use Git  

Git is typically used through the command line. The Git command line interface (CLI) is a tool for running these commands. The Git command line tool is installed by default on macOS and Linux and can be easily installed on Windows. There are various Git clients with friendlier interfaces that allow users to work more efficiently with git.

Once you have Git installed, you can clone an existing repository or create a new one. To clone a repository, you will need the URL of the git repository. To create a new git repository, use the git init command.

Once you have a git repository, you can add files to it and commit changes. For instance, to add a file to a git repository, use the git add command. To commit changes, use the git commit command.

While Git is a powerful tool, it can be challenging to use if you're not familiar with the command line. That's where GitHub comes in. In fact, GitHub is built on Git.

What is GitHub?

GitHub is a web-based hosting service for Git repositories. It makes Git more user-friendly and also provides a platform for developers to share code with others. In addition, GitHub makes it easy for others to contribute to projects. It also has a robust API that allows developers to integrate GitHub into their own applications and workflows.

GitHub offers both a paid and free subscription. With a free subscription, users can create public repositories. Public repositories are visible to anyone and can be cloned or forked by anyone. (A fork is a separate copy of the Git repository that was made. A clone, in contrast, creates a linked copy that will continue to synchronize with the target repository.) A paid subscription is required to create private repositories. Private repositories are only visible to users who have been given access by the repository owner.

GitHub offers features such as bug tracking, task management, and project management. In addition to Git repositories, GitHub also provides a platform for developers to share code snippets, issues, and documentation. Developers can also use GitHub to track the progress of their projects.

GitHub is so popular that it's now the largest host of source code in the world. As of 2022, GitHub has more than 80 million users and 200 million repositories.

So, what's the difference between Git and GitHub? Let's take a closer look.

Git vs GitHub: What's the Difference?

Git is a version control system that allows developers to track changes in their code. GitHub is a web-based hosting service for git repositories. In simple terms, you can use git without Github, but you cannot use GitHub without Git. Take note of the following illustration for further information on the distinctions between the two.

git vs. github difference chart

Which should you use: Git or GitHub?

The answer to this question depends on your needs. If you're working on a personal project or don't need the features of GitHub, then Git is a great choice. However, if you're working on a project with other people, GitHub is the better choice. Its robust features and user-friendly interface make it the best platform for collaboration.

By using Git and GitHub, you can access your code from any computer. If your local machine was to get damaged or stolen, for example, you would lose all of your code with no way to retrieve it. However, if you store your code on GitHub, which is a cloud-based service, you never have to worry about losing it.

Git and GitHub are great tools to consider when working on any coding project. Be sure to weigh the pros and cons of each to decide which is best for you and your project.

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